Making Extracts: Vanilla, Nectarine Kernel, Lemon, + Mint

Welcome to the 2014 Science Fair! Just kidding, I'm making extracts. Those twelve-year-olds wouldn't stand a chance anyway. Again, I'm kidding. I'll bet they do such cool things these days in science fairs, like make robots and drones and stuff. My science fair included like 18 versions of baking soda volcanoes and the quest for the most absorbent paper towel. Far from impressive. 

The flavors I'm making are vanilla, lemon, mint, and apricot kernel. Yes, apricot kernel! Yes, it has trace amounts of cyanide. I'm sorry to inform you. But apricot and nectarine kernels are used to make amaretto, and as a secret ingredient in certain baked goods. Feel free to skip this one if it makes you uncomfortable. After all, I'm not the expert. I'm just an adventurous little one who is willing to take her chances. On to the pictures..

Cracking these kernels was no small feat, let me tell you. I used a hammer, then I got wise and used some gardening shears to crack them open. I definitely recommend goggles, but I take no liability over what you do in the comfort of your own home. 

Making these extracts is extra simple, you just need some alcohol. I used vodka, but you can use rum or bourbon, which pair especially well with vanilla, not so sure about bourbon mint though. I like using vodka because it leaves the least amount of flavor behind. You just get the flavor of the herbs, spices, or kernels as the case may be. 

Note that you can use dried herbs, but you'll need more. Fresh herbs provide a stronger, more reliable flavor when making extracts. 

Here's what you'll need:

  • 15 mint leaves
  • 4 apricot kernels - cracked open
  • The zest from one lemon - aim for shallow cuts when zesting your lemon, the pith is bitter.
  • 2 large vanilla beans - with a sharp knife split your vanilla beans down the middle
  • Bottles - I used these Martinelli's glass bottles, they're 10 oz each, plus you get apple juice. 
  • 40 oz of Vodka - don't strew too much about what kind. It's just for extracts.


  • Make sure your glass jars are clean. Run them through the dishwasher, or you can sterilize them with steam, if you want to be really sure.
  • Place your flavors inside the jars.
  • Fill the jars with alcohol and seal with a lid.
  • Shake the jars about once a week and keep them sealed in a dark space, like a pantry for 6-8 weeks. 
  • Strain the solid parts through a sieve or a coffee filter for very small pieces. 

Some people leave the flavors inside the jars indefinitely. I think this is also fine, but if you get it to the perfect flavor and don't want it stronger — go ahead and strain out the pieces. 

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