Let’s make a mint!

As a child my favorite ice cream was mint chocolate chip.  Something about that light green with chunks of chocolate in it just made my tummy happy.  As a new mommy, I learned that a few drops of mint in a 4 oz bottle of water made my gassy babies a lot happier than the expensive baby gas drops and I’ve learned it also helps with stomach cramps and countless other things.

In baking, mint goes with chocolate almost as well as peanut butter does.  In this house we LOVE chocolate.  So, since I had been so successful with making my own vanilla, I decided to try a few other flavors too.  One of my favorite…yep you guessed it:  mint!  Here’s a picture I took this morning of my 2nd batch steeping/infusing:

It looks terrible I know.  But the smell….oh man the smell is wonderful.  I can’t wait for it to be ready to use.  So…why make my own you ask?  Well let’s crunch some numbers shall we?  Store bought pure mint extract is more than $3 an ounce locally.  The jar in this photo is 16 ounces.  To buy this much mint extract at the store would cost me almost $50.  My DIY mint extract is much cheaper.  The last bottle of vodka I bought was on sale for $12 for about 59 oz (1.75 liters).  Most of the recipes I’ve found say to use “top shelf” vodka, but I haven’t had a problem using bottom shelf varieties.   Not that I’d know the difference anyway given I’m not a drinker but…

So…my vodka costs .20 cents an ounce and my mint cost per batch is $1.96.  Total cost for 16oz of pure mint extract if you make it yourself is $5.16.  The $45 I’ve just saved equates to a year of laundry soap, fabric softener and stain remover (or lots of new scrappy stuff) PLUS I can also customize the strength of my extract by adding more or less mint if I want.  So sorry Schilling but you got NOTHING on my mint extract!!!

Making mint extract is just as easy as it is to make vanilla.  To make the jar shown above, you simply need one 16 oz jar, 2 bundles of organic mint (or any other mint), and vodka.  Tear all the mint leaves off their stems and them bruise the leaves up really good.  I used the end of  tart shaper thingie from Pampered Chef.  This is VERY important.  When I first started this batch I didn’t bruise the leaves and it was taking forever to infuse (plus I don’t think I used enough leaves either).  Take your bruised mint leaves and put them in your jar then fill your jar with vodka.  It’s important that the vodka cover the leaves entirely (so they don’t mold and spoil your extract).  Leave your jar out on your counter or mantle or wherever, and shake it every couple of days to mix things up.  When your liquid is more mint than vodka, it’s done.  Like the vanilla, the longer you steep/infuse, the better/stronger your mint will be.  Once the extract has reached your desired strength, strain out the leaves and enjoy!

I use this same mint extract in my DIY mouthwash and toothpaste and baking and start a new batch when I’m about halfway through the first.

What a difference a month can make

A month ago when I started this blog my first DIY project for the blog was vanilla.   Remember this:

Since then I have tried coconut, almond, and mint extract.  The almond has been the hardest to get to cure/infuse and I’m not sure I am totally sold on the coconut either.  The mint is currently at my sister’s house, so I’ll feature that later.

Anywayz…all the recipes I saw for vanilla said it needed to sit for 6 weeks to 6 months…here’s my vanilla after just 30 days:

We’ve used it several times and it’s phenomenal already.  It will of course get better the longer it sits, but it’s really good right now.   Good enough that I will never buy store-bought vanilla again.

Mmmmmmm Vanillia

You pronounce my title like this….vuh nillll yuh.  It’s just what I call it when I’m being silly.  Anyways, I have researched DIY pure vanilla extract for months but was leery about buying one of the two ingredients needed…vodka.  I’m LDS…alcohol is kinda sacrilegious.  So then, my good friend we shall call Tracks (yes there’s a story there too but this is not the place for it) posted to her FB page about coming out of the liquor store and running into someone presumably LDS and how it could have looked and a vanilla making discussion ensued.  I decided it was time I try my hand at it.

Ok so remember I told you earlier I’d post links to original recipes when I could remember them and then tell you how I modified it….well I don’t remember the blog I liked the best, but instructions on how to do it can be found here.   She says it takes 6 months for the vanilla to be ready, but I’ve also seen people blogs whose authors use theirs after just 6 weeks.  Probably depends on the quality of your vodka (I can’t help you there I wouldn’t know top shelf from root cellar LOL) andyour vanilla beans.   I bought my vanilla beans from a seller on Amazon.  No, I don’t remember which one and I’m too excited to finish this post and move onto another DIY project to look it up.  What I can tell you is that I got a pound of beans for $31.95 and they sent 1/8 of a pound free.  They arrived today (I think I ordered them Friday) and they are DIVINE.  I opened the 1/8th freebie package and whiffed it and whiffed it and whiffed it.  MMMMMMMMMMM I love the smell of vanilla.  There was about like 20 beans in the 1/8 lb pkg I got free.  I opened the pound of beans and took out five more to add to the bottle.

Here’s my bottle immediately after being finished.  This is a 1.75 liter bottle.

I had to pour about half a cup to a cup out of the bottle to make room for all the beans.  If I was smart I would have saved it and made an ini mini bottle but I wasn’t that smart so down the sink it went.  There are I think 25 beans in this bottle.  It wasn’t anything super mathematical, most recipes I saw said 10 to 15 beans per 750 ml’s of vodka.  I figured if I doubled it for my 1.75 liters of vodka it’d probably be alright.  Plus my beans are HUGELY potent.  I can STILL smell vanilla on my hands and it’s been hours and several hand washings since I sliced them in half.

This is SERIOUSLY one of the easiest DIY things I’ve ever done.  Even easier than my one ingredient DIY glue dots.  Just cut the beans in half to expose their pulpy guts…that’s the richest part, drop in the bottle, shake it real good and then wait.  Then wait some more, then wait some more, then shake the bottle rinse and repeat.  Well repeat anyway.

Here’s what my bottle looked like just 3 hours later:

See…it’s browning already WOO HOO!  I shook it up again when I got home and then put it in my storage unit.  I’ll shake it again next week.  Because people have said they can use theirs after 6 weeks, I’m gonna try it in 6 weeks and see what I think.  I’ll keep you posted.

Now…why DIY vanilla extract you ask?  Well cuz we use vanilla almost as much as we do laundry.  I can only afford imitation vanilla and so we always double or triple the amount a recipe calls for.  On average we probably use a bottle a month WITHOUT any “extra” baking.  Just the normal stuff we do to feed our bellies.  A bottle of pure vanilla extra is about 6 to 8 bucks at my local discount food store.  Check out the savings reported in the link I posted above:

Cost Comparison

Homemade Vanilla

Quality Vodka (1.75 liters) $25 (YAY I got quality stuff cuz mine was in this price range)
Quality Vanilla Beans (40 at .43 cents per bean)  $17.20 (note that 55 beans came in the 1/2 pound bag)
=$42.20 for a half-gallon of vanilla extract that is indeed pure.

Cost per ounce: $.66 cents

Simply Organic 2 oz. Best Price: $4.28 or $2.14 per ounce

Costco Vanilla Extract 16 oz. Best Price: $7 or $.44 cents per ounce (plus cost of membership)

Aldi Vanilla Extract 2 oz. Best Price: $1.99 or $.995 per ounce

We don’t have Aldi’s here so my cost per ounce is more like the $2 buck end.  Hmmmmm….66 cents an ounce or over two dollars?!?!?  I’m no rocket scientist but uh….