The front jar is newly made anise star extract, and the jar in the background is an in-progress jar of vanilla extract.
Most of us have good intentions. I was all set to participate the Nourishing Gift carnival. I was so excited about it!! I had my ideas, my extracts brewing, and a ream of blank labels ready to be printed. And then Swine Flu got in the way and I had to move out of my flu infested home for a week, leaving the jars to themselves. I still managed to divide some of the above extracts into these 2 ounce clear glass jars from Mountain Rose Herbs ($1.30 each) and print out my labels, so let's try to imagine...
These jars of Madagascar vanilla bean extract and anise extract...
in mini woven baskets, with some raffia, and a mini-recipe book (about 2" x 4") with different ways the recipient can use the extracts. I plan to include my Pizzelle recipe, this kasha chocolate chip cookie recipe, instructions for making chai tea, and a few others that I have yet to determine! Can you picture it? It'll be great when it's done, I promise.
I used to spend a lot of money on vanilla extract, especially after I had the real stuff, and not just an imitation jar from Big Y. I have no idea how I realized I could make my own, but after the first batch, I was hooked. It's deceptively simple, and deliciously good. If you're interested in brewing your own extract to save money, or to give as gifts, here is all you need to brew your very own homemade extracts. Experiment with vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and anise pods.
6 vanilla beans OR 1/2 cup star anise pods OR 6 cinnamon sticks (I buy mine from Mountain Rose Herbs)
1.5 cups of vodka (or cognac, or rum, or Armagnac - though vodka lets the beans shine the most)
1 quart sized mason jar with a tight fitting lid
1 Slice the beans lengthwise, splitting them almost in half, but leave one inch connected at the end. If making anise or cinnamon, skip to step 2.
2 Put beans or pods in jar. Cover with the vodka.
3 Shake the bottle once in awhile. I tend to forget this step until I go under the counter to get my food processor, which is stored in front of the jars. Keep in a dark, cool place for several months. My first batch took about 10 weeks to mellow. The batches I have going now had only 2/3 the amount of beans I should have put in, so they are still fairly strong but should be ready in time for Christmas.
These last for awhile! You can top it off with vodka every time you use a little if you don't mind a slight alcohol flavor, or alternatively, once you're done with the beans, add a fresh cup or so of vodka and it should mellow even quicker than the first batch.
You can reuse those beans one more time! Take the beans out after 6 months and put them in a cup of sugar per bean to make tasty vanilla sugar for baking!
Stay tuned for pictures of the final product.
Here are a few links for extracts I'm in the process of making (so I can't exactly vouch for flavor!):