Yes, you can buy mint extract, but homemade is so much more fresh-tasting and flavorful. And it’s easy. You can use it in baked goods, and it’s marvelous in drinks!
- 2 cups fresh mint leaves and stems, roughly chopped
- ½ vanilla bean pod (reserve the seeds and the other half of the pod for another use; see Kitchen Tip)
- 2 cups vodka
- In a medium-sized nonreactive saucepan, combine the mint, vanilla bean pod and vodka and heat over medium-low heat, uncovered, until it just begins to boil. Be careful NOT to set the alcohol on fire, but if by chance it does catch on fire, cover the pan, turn on your stovetop fan, let the fire burn out and finish cooking with the pan covered. Do not blow on it.
- Remove from the heat and let stand until it has reached room temperature and reduced in volume. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl or other container, mashing and pushing on the mint with the back of a spoon.
- Refrigerate, covered, in a glass jar with some fresh mint sprigs for up to 2 weeks.
To prepare a vanilla bean pod, slit it lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. The seeds can (and should!) be reserved in an airtight container for another use. That’s all there is to it. If you have half a pod left, you can slip it into a container of granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar.