Monday, November 2, 2015

12 Weeks of Christmas: DIY Essences and Flavour Infusions


It is easier than you think to DIY the flavours of Christmas, whether to use in your own festive cooking or to give as holiday gifts. They taste amazing and are free of the artificial nasties found in some store-bought flavourings. We'll be sharing more gifts from the kitchen a little later in the 12 Weeks of Creative Christmas mini-series, but some things take a little time (and are worth the wait). If you make your own flavoured essences now, and they'll have plenty of time to age to perfection before Christmas.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Combine one vanilla bean (split lengthwise) for approximately every 60mL of alcohol in a sterilised bottle or jar (preferably clear so you can watch the process, you can decant into something else later if you wish). Use vodka for a pure vanilla flavour, or get adventurous and mix flavours with a rum or bourbon for something unique, just make sure its strong (35% or more). You can, of course, use "the good stuff" if you wish, but vanilla is the star here so cheap vodka is perfectly fine! Make sure your beans are fully covered.  Age in a cool dark place, shaking occasionally.  Allow the beans to marinate at least two weeks before use, but preferably around six to eight for a decadent rich vanilla flavour.

Homemade Mint Extract

Combine fresh mint leaves with vodka in a sterilised jar (preferably clear so that you can keep an eye on things). The ratio should be a least 1:2, but volumes will vary depending on your jar - you can't really mess it up, just make sure that your mint is fully covered in vodka.  If your infusion contains less mint, it may take a little longer to reach your desired flavour strength or vice versa.  No need to be gentle with the mint - a little bruising helps release the flavour. Cheap vodka is perfectly fine! Age in a cool dark place, shaking occasionally.  Allow the leaves to marinate at least two weeks before use, but preferably around four to six for a strong minty essence.  Strain out the mint and decant the liquid into sterile bottles for use or gifting. 

I opted to share these flavours as they are two of the simplest extracts to make and most common for many kitchens (and Christmas recipes), but your imagination is the limit! Almond? Hazelnut? Coconut? Citrus? Chocolate? Berry? Coffee?  Oh the possibilities! Ignore the questionable looks from the shop clerks as you merrily check-out with jugs of cheap vodka for your essence experiments! Heheh. If you invent something awesome, please come back and share it with us in the comments so that we can try it out (and marvel at your greatness, of course).  You can also use a similar approach to make your own flavoured alcohols or vinegars, just adjust the ratios to your tastes.

Have fun crafting and creating, and we hope that you will join us again next Monday for the 12 Weeks of Creative Christmas mini-series.  Looking for more creative ideas in the interim? You can search the blog under the DIY type of your preference or join us on Pinterest for fab creative pins from here, there and everywhere! If you make something fabulous or post something special, you are always welcome to share here in the comments or post to our page at Creativity Unmasked on Facebook. We are all about sharing so, on our page, a little bit of self shout-out is actively encouraged. 

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