I’m always tempted to write “Liquid Sunshine” on my homemade lemon extract labels, because that’s exactly what it reminds me of. The bright flavor is perfect for making poppyseed muffins or lemon bread with vanilla glaze, and it’s ridiculously easy to make. Just combine two ingredients with a little time and voila! Sunshine in a bottle that’s perfect for baking and making homemade limoncello.
It also makes a beautiful gift for people who love food, either on its own or paired with homemade vanilla extract. So when life gives you lemons, don’t forget to put the rinds to good use. Here are some tips:
Homemade Lemon Extract
- Before you squeeze that lemon in your water, use a lemon zester to remove the precious rind from the outside. (It’s much harder to peel off once the lemon has been squeezed.)
- If you’re only using a lemon or two at a time, place the zest in a bag/container in the freezer and continue adding to it until you have enough to fill a small (or large) jar.
My favorite store-bought lemon extract costs an average of $3.76 per ounce, which is much more expensive than the recipe in this post. Here’s a cost breakdown:
- Spirits – I used vodka for this batch. My cost was $0.49/ounce
- Organic lemon peels – Free because I was already using the lemons.
Total store bought cost – About $45.12 for 12 ounces
Total homemade cost – About $5.88 for 12 ounces
A Note On Ingredients
Vodka, which is often used to make lemon extract, is sometimes made from genetically modified corn and/or enzymes derived from genetically modified organisms. Manufacturers say that none of the genetic material makes it through the distilling process to the final product, but to my knowledge that has not been independently verified.
Organic options are hard to find, but there are certain sources that are still likely to be GMO-free. Absolut says they’re non-GMO. Absolut is made from wheat, but the company says that the final product does not contain gluten. Potato-based vodkas are naturally gluten-free and non-GMO.
Want to make an alcohol-free extract?
Though alcohol-based extracts are most common, substituting food-grade glycerin is an option for people who don’t consume any alcohol. Glycerin-based extracts take longer to infuse than alcohol-based ones, but they also have a unique sweetness that some people like.
Lemon Extract Recipe
- 2 lbs organic lemons
- 3 cups 80 or 100-proof vodka (or food-grade glycerin – add more if needed to cover the lemon rind)
- Wash and dry lemons.
- Using a vegetable peeler or zester, cut thin slivers of the yellow skin in long ribbons. Make sure not to peel off the bitter white pith, just the outside will do.
- Choose a jar that will be about 3/4 filled by the peels when they are placed inside, then add the peels to the jar and pour in vodka or glycerin. Add a lid and shake well.
- Place the jar in a dark cabinet for 4-6 weeks. Shake every few days for the first week, then occasionally after that.
- When the extract has reached the intensity you prefer, strain peels and pour extract into a clean jar. Remember that glycerin takes longer to ripen than alcohol, so it may need longer than six weeks depending on the ambient temperature of your home and how strong you want it to be. When ready, store your extract in a dark cabinet or the fridge.
Here are some more recipes that incorporate leftover lemon peels. What’s your favorite way to use them?