Making homemade extracts is pretty easy to do, but we’ve figured out a shortcut—essential oils—to make some extracts even easier. Normally, extracts are achieved by steeping vanilla beans, citrus peels, fresh herbs (such as peppermint leaves), dried herbs/spices (including cinnamon sticks), or coconut meat in alcohol for several months. As it steeps, the alcohol takes on the flavor of the added substance and an extract is produced. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the flavor tends to be.
We used the alcohol extract method to create this Homemade Vanilla Extract. Since then, we’ve learned that there are alternate solvents, such as vegetable glycerin, that can be used instead of alcohol. By using vegetable glycerin, we can create an extract that is alcohol-free and has a more pleasant taste. However, it is important to keep in mind that these extracts may only last about 14–24 months (whereas alcohol extracts can last 4–6 years).
Vegetable glycerin extracts usually use a glycerin/water combination and need to have at least 70% glycerin with 30% (or less) distilled water (if you are making extracts from fresh herbs, you’ll need to account for the water in the plant). The common ratio for herb to glycerin/water is 1:8.
To make most extracts, it is important to let the substance steep in the glycerin for a minimum of 4–6 weeks (preferably 10–12 weeks or more for a stronger flavor). However, we’ve found that if you use essential oils for some extracts, you can use the extract within days of steeping.
Essential Oil Glycerin Extracts
Ingredients & Supplies:
- 3 Tbsp. (45 ml) organic liquid vegetable glycerin
- 10–15 drops essential oil (such as lemon, orange, peppermint, cassia or cinnamon)
- 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) distilled water
- 2 oz. Glass Bottle with Black Lid
- Add glycerin and essential oils to the bottle. Screw the lid on, and shake to combine. Remove the lid, and add the distilled water. Replace the lid, and shake once more.
- Let steep for at least 24 hours before using.
- If you would rather use alcohol for the longer shelf life, just add the essential oils to the bottle and fill it up with vodka (80-proof).
You can also use glycerin to make other extracts such as vanilla, almond, and coconut extracts.
Ingredients & Supplies:
- 2 vanilla beans (sliced open lengthwise and cut in half or chopped into smaller pieces),
1/4 cup (21 g) coconut meat (freshly grated),
OR 10 sweet almonds (skins removed and cut in half or chopped)
- 6 Tbsp. (90 ml) organic liquid vegetable glycerin
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) distilled water
- 4 oz. Glass Bottle with Black Lid
- Place vanilla beans, coconut meat, or sweet almonds in the bottle. Add glycerin and water to the bottle. Screw the lid on, and shake to combine.
- Let steep for at least 4–12 weeks before using. Shake as often as possible. The more you shake, the sooner it will be ready. (Your extract can be ready as soon as 2 weeks if you shake it at least once every day.)
- After 12 weeks, strain out the vanilla beans, coconut meat, or sweet almonds, and pour the liquid back into the bottle.
- You can make this recipe in bulk using mason jars and then place the final liquid extract in smaller bottles (such as the 2 oz. Glass Bottle with Black Lid) for gifting.
- Check out these cute vinyl labels for vanilla extract.
- If you would rather use alcohol for the longer shelf life, just replace the glycerin and water in this recipe with vodka (80-proof).
Don’t forget about gift giving during this holiday season! These little bottles of extract make a perfect neighbor gift!