Flavored extracts are a great way to add flavor to many baked goods -- just think about how many recipes call for a teaspoon of vanilla extract, almond extract, etc. However many extracts, like good-quality vanilla extract, can be really expensive (a small bottle can cost more than $10). Sometimes it's worth being thrifty but not when it comes to extracts -- you definitely don't want to use the imitation stuff, which is made from chemical flavorings that often have weird aftertastes. Homemade extracts are the way to go. First, because you know what they're made of and second, because you can regulate the flavor and its intensity.
Here's how to make homemade extract: All you need is a small jar, vodka and vanilla beans (or almonds, lemon peel, etc.). For sake of example, let's talk about vanilla extract since it's the most expensive. A liter bottle of mid-shelf vodka costs about $15 and a 20-count package of vanilla beans costs bout $12.50. With those amounts you can make eight jars of 4-ounce extracts. When you add it all up, you will send $3.44 per jar of homemade extract vs. $12.99 for the gourmet store-bought vanilla extract. That's a lot of savings. On top of it all you will have an extract that tastes better and can be gifted.
But of course, you don't have to use that entire bottle of vodka to make eight jars of extract -- so don't think that you're boxed into just making all extracts. Buy just two vanilla beans to make one jar of vanilla extract. And you could always use the rest of the vodka to make any other special extracts you need such as almond, lemon or coffee. Once you're done with making all the extracts you need, celebrate with some vodka shots!
Photo from maoquai, Flickr.