Monday, April 9, 2012

DIY - Extracts!

While traveling through Denver last month, I was able to make a stop at the fantastic Savory Spice Shop, a little store with a huge selection of delicious and hard-to-find herbs, spices and seasonings.

Savory Spice Shop - Denver, CO

The store sells in bulk, which means that things come cheap. For example, I bought 3 whole Madagascan Vanilla Beans for $5. Whole Foods sells one bean for over $10. My entire purchase (3 different herbs, 2 spices, the 3 vanilla beans and 5 cinnamon sticks) rang in at just over $20.

One of the many knowledgeable staff members 

One of my big plans for everything I bought was to make my own extracts. Waaayyy cheaper than buying pre-made pure extracts and really easy to do, making your own extracts is a fun project for any chef or baker, and they make a great gift - a soon-to-be-married friend invited me over for tea this past weekend, and I gave her and her foodie fiance a set of the extracts as a house-warming/sorry-I-missed-your-bridal-shower-present.

Dried herbs - I used lavender, rose petals, and hibiscus flowers
Cinnamon sticks
Whole vanilla beans
Glass jars (with lids)
Vodka - bottom shelf vodka is fine. Buy a handle of Fleischmann's, give a toast to your college years, and call it a day.
**There is no set measurements for the above ingredients - it depends on how big your jars are. A good rule of thumb is to use a 3:1 ratio - about 3 parts vodka for every one part of the herb you're extracting.

These used to be hotel-room service condiment jars

How to
For the vanilla extract:

Using a sharp knife, cut a slit down the center of the bean. Leave the ends in tact (kind of like you would pierce a hot dog before putting it in the microwave).

Leave all the other ingredients in tact. Depending on the size of your jar, you might have to bend the vanilla bean or snap the cinnamon stick in half, but keep the herbs as whole as you can.

Fill the bottoms of the each jar with one ingredient each (although if you get creative, feel free to experiment with your own blends and mixes. I didn't combine any of my herbs, but maybe that'll be my next extract project!).

Pour vodka into the jars, filling them to the top. Cap tightly, shake for good measure, and store in a cool, dark place. Shake the ingredients around every few days, but you can pretty much leave them alone. It takes about seven weeks for the vodka to turn into usable extract, so you'll have to wait a little while before you can incorporate this into your cooking. But think of all the recipes you can find and plan out while you wait!

I made a set for myself using the smaller condiment jars, but I found spice jars at Ikea that fit beautifully into one of their small metal baskets (or maybe the good folks at Ikea intended for that to happen. I can never figure that place out). They were the perfect present size, so I added a hand-written label and a little bow, and delivered it with a smile.

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