Homemade mint extract, and other extracts, number among my favorite additions to desserts. And, in keeping with most of the several real food recipes at Nourished Kitchen, it is shamefully easy to prepare and requires only a handful of ingredients. And, in winter when my herbs are frozen over until the spring thaw, I rely on these extracts to enliven strawberry mint sorbet and mint ice creams with their sweet and herbaceous flavors. Just a few drops does it.
Unlike purchased mint extracts – which often contain petroleum derivatives like propylene glycol and which are potent with the overwhelming intensity of menthol; homemade mint extract is mellow and sweet. Better yet: in this version the natural menthol in fresh mint is tempered by the sweet and earthy softness of vanilla bean.
When making extracts, I like to use a variety of mints. I’m fond of mint, you see – it’s the herb of Venus. And in magical combination, it both stimulates and calms simultaneously. On my front porch, where I keep all my herbs, I typically grow at least three or four varieties of mint: peppermint, chocolate mint, spearmint, dotted mint while other varieties arrive in my weekly CSA – pineapple mint, lemon mint, mountain mint. And if you’re a mint lover as I am, you should know that most of these varieties are available online from seed companies specializing in heirloom varietals (see sources).
Making mint, or any other extract, is easy: simply steep herbs, spices, citrus skins or whatever you like in alcohol in a dark cabinet for a few weeks, decant if you like, and use as you would any commercially available extract. Most home cooks who make their own extracts prefer the use of vodka for its clean, clear and near flavorless qualities, but me, I like a good dark rum for its rum’s natural sweetness that adds a subtle, but uplifting volume of flavor to basic extracts.
So if you’ve chopped, dried and frozen your way through your kitchen herbs as the cold of autumn begins to creep in your garden, consider purchasing a good bottle of dark rum and preserving the remainder of your harvest in this simple, sweet alcohol where its vibrancy can lift your cooking well into the deep, dark days of winter.
Vanilla Mint Extract
- 4 vanilla beans
- ½ cup chopped fresh mint
- 2 cups dark rum
- Pack a 1-pint glass mason jar with vanilla beans and chopped fresh mint. Cover with dark rum. Close tightly with a lid and leave in a dark cabinet for at least six weeks before using. There is no need to strain the vanilla or mint from the rum, just spoon off the liquid as you need it.