Don't limit yourself to vanilla
You’re familiar with vanilla extract; in fact, a teaspoon or so is required in most breakfast bakes. But have you ever widened your extract experience to other flavors? Unlike vanilla (a flavor we’re now accustomed to tasting in everything), a spoonful of almond, orange, or mint extract actually contributes to the flavor of a finished dish. Chocolate cookies taste more like Thin Mints, a buttermilk scone is reminiscent of a Creamsicle, waffles taste nutty and floral—all that, thanks to extract. Want to learn how to make them? Of course you do.
Acquire and sterilize several glass jars, one for each bottle of extract you’re making. Clear glass will work, but amber glass or cobalt blue bottles are best, as they filter out sunlight. Ideally, you’ll store your extracts in a cool, dry, dark place, but just in case you eventually move them to somewhere sunny, the colored glass will help prevent the extracts from spoiling.
For almond extract: Finely chop 10 skinless raw almonds—you can use almonds with skins, but that can make the extracts more bitter—in a food processor and drop them in a bottle, then tightly close the cap. Give it a shake, then place the jar in a cool, dry, dark place, like inside your pantry or your bedroom closet. Shake the bottle a couple times when you remember. After 6 weeks, strain the mixture into a clean bottle.
For orange extract: Use a microplane to zest the skin from half an orange. Use a funnel to transfer the zest into a bottle, then cover with vodka or bourbon. Give the bottle a shake, then place the jar in a cool, dry, dark place and let steep for 6 weeks. Shake the bottle from time to time.
For mint extract: Shove 5 large mint leaves into a bottle (rolling them up into a little tube works well), then use a chopstick to muddle the leaves a bit. Cover with vodka. Give the mixture a shake, then place the jar in a cool, dry, and dark place and let steep for 6 weeks. Shake the bottle on occasion.