Every other weekend we get together with four other families who all live in the same 20-mile, rural region and we have a “work party.” In an admittedly sexist division of labor usually the men work on the large, house-building type project and the women work together on a cooking project or some other type of project, while also taking care of the children and preparing lunch and dinner for the whole crew (our families together total over 20 people and so it is actually a lot of work to feed that many people for an entire day!). I could write a long post about the many wonderful things we’ve gained from this work party experience, but it will have to wait for another day. We just celebrated our one year anniversary and it has been amazing what a positive influence the work party experience has been on the lives of everyone in our family.
During the last work party at our own house during which the men worked on Mark’s greenhouse project, the women gathered in my kitchen to make a variety of homemade extracts. Our main goal was to make vanilla extract to be ready for the holiday season, but we also made orange and lemon extract, mint extract, and flavored vinegar.
We bought our vanilla beans from Amazon. They were $25 at the time there for 1/2 lbs (about 50 beans), which was much better than the $9 per 3 beans from the bulk spice company (looks like the same ones are $27 now). They were pliable and easy to work with.
I followed the general ideas from these two websites about how to make your own extracts, but took the even lazier approach and decided to make the extract right in the vodka bottle! My share of the beans was about 11 beans. I slit them all lengthwise, separated the sides a bit with my fingers and dropped them into a 1.75 liter bottle of 80 proof vodka. Voila! It started to turn a lovely golden color almost right away and then deepened to a dark brown. We’ve tasted it and it tastes like…vanilla! I’m continuing to let it steep though, since there are conflicting reports about whether to let it sit for 6 weeks or 6 months.
For the lemon and orange extracts I used about a 1/2 cup of peel and 1 c. of vodka. I loosely based it on the recipe from this site. We did the mint extract the same way. I used mint from my yard.
We also experimented with flavored vinegar based on information from this handout. I used strawberries in apple cider vinegar. I plan to use it for salad dressing, but haven’t tried it yet. It retained a lovely red color!
And here are the work party women after a full day of extract-making!
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