In the midst of all the holiday cookies, ornaments, and candy, give a gift that the receiver will truly appreciate again and again. DIY extracts are not only cheaper than store bought, they are simple to make and easy to dress up as a present. Forget even turning on the stove or making handmade ornaments, homemade extracts will truly keep on giving past the new year.
If you want to skip the fuss of baking a half dozen cookies, a big batch of granola, and cheesecake bars for a cookie tray, but still want to give a homemade gift for friends and family during the holidays that says you care, we have the solution. DIY extracts are easy to make, and you don't even have to turn on your oven. Everyone will appreciate a gift that goes beyond cookies and candy (trust us, they'll have plenty of those after the holiday) that still remains practical and festive.
Where to Start: Try making your own extract varieties with the flavors of the holiday season in mind. We tested vanilla, lemon, mint, and almond extracts. We recommend ordering your vanilla beans online at a discounted price, as retail stores tend to have higher prices per bean. Start with our recipe for Homemade Vanilla Extract.
For the homemade lemon, mint, and almond extracts, we tested with 80-proof vodka. Despite other recipe suggestions, it isn't necessary to use a high-quality alcohol. Use a preferred vodka, or opt for a mid-range brand. For the lemon and almond extracts, we used small containers because those extracts can go a long way. Vanilla is also more commonly used, so a larger bottle will be a welcomed gift.
More Homemade Extracts
Lemon Extract: 1 thinly-sliced lemon to approximately 1 1/2 cups vodka
Almond Extract: Approximately 15 chopped almonds to 1 1/2 cups vodka
Mint Extract: Approximately 2 cups washed and chopped mint to 4 cups vodka
Let Them Sit: Once you've prepared the ingredients and bottles, let the extracts sit for about one month in a cool, dry place before gifting. If you're in a time crunch for gifting the extracts, tie a label on the bottle that provides a date when the recipient can begin using their extracts. It's also a good idea to tell them the flavors and color will get deeper with time, so if their first experience with the extract lacks flavor, they should give the ingredients a bit more time to infuse.
The Gift of Extracts: One way to gift the extracts is to give one big bottle, but a few small ones given as a set is also cute. Use our ratios above to create extracts of all quantities. You can then divide the extracts into small containers before you gift. No matter what type of vessel you use, just be sure the ingredients remain submerged in the vodka. Label and decorate the extracts with yarn, twine, or stickers.
Bottomless Extract: You can use reuse the vanilla beans for more batches of extract. Discard the beans once the vanilla infusion is no longer strong enough to mask the flavor of the vodka. Instead of tossing the used beans, you can dry out the beans and let them sit in granulated sugar to create infused vanilla-sugar. If you pour larger bottles of mint, lemon, and almond extracts into small containers for gifting, you can add more vodka to the original containers and start another batch of homemade extracts.