How to Make Homemade Citrus Extract

If you’re looking for a quick and easy Christmas gift, this homemade citrus extract is a great option! Keep reading after the recipe!

How to make homemade citrus extracts from our best bites

homemade citrus extract from our best bites

How to Make Homemade Citrus Extract

If you're looking for a quick and easy Christmas gift for neighbors and friends, this homemade citrus extract is a great option!

Ingredients

for every...

  • 1 quart high-quality vodka

You'll need

  • 4 medium oranges OR 6 medium-large lemons

or

  • 2 medium oranges AND 3 medium-large lemons

Instructions

  • Select high-quality, fragrant fruit that doesn't smell off or rancid at all. Wash thoroughly in warm water with a gentle soap like Mrs. Meyers to remove any wax from the peels.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, peel the topmost layer off each piece of fruit. Place the orange peels in one glass mason jar and the lemon peels in another, then cover with vodka. Make sure the peels are completely submerged and then place lids on the jars.  Allow them to steep for at least a week (as long as the peels are covered, the alcohol will preserve the peels and prevent them from rotting). When the extracts are very fragrant, transfer to small bottles for gifting.

Notes

to make mint extract

I completely forgot you can make homemade mint extracts until after I photographed this post (another post for another day, I suppose!), but just gently crush mint, peppermint, or spearmint leaves with your hands, fill a jar half full with mint, and cover with vodka. It will steep in the same amount of time.
Some of our favorite recipes that call for citrus extracts are...
Overnight Cream Cheese Stuffed Lemon French Toast with Strawberries
Lemon Cheesecake
You could slip some into this Almond Poppyseed Bread, which makes another great holiday gift
Add some to the glaze of these rolls
Basically, you can slip it into frostings, glazes, breads, rolls--anywhere you want an extra punch of citrus flavor.
Author: kate jones
Did You Make This Recipe?Snap a picture, and hashtag it #ourbestbites. We love to see your creations on our Instagram @ourbestbites!

A few years ago, one of our most popular posts, and one of my favorite, go-to homemade Christmas gifts was homemade vanilla. I still think it’s an awesome idea. However, there are a few downsides. Because vanilla beans are tough and dry, it takes months for them to properly brew, so ideally, this is a project to start in June, and in June, Christmas gifts are the last thing on my mind. The other thing is that over the last few years, vanilla bean prices have become ridiculously expensive. For example, in September 2013, I could get half a pound of vanilla beans for $29.95. Those would go a loooong way–I could make gifts for all our neighbors, teachers, friends, and still have plenty leftover for myself.

Today, those same beans are $304.49, plus $4.77 in shipping. Since I don’t like anyone enough to spend $304 on vanilla beans for them, they shall be getting citrus extracts instead. Oranges and lemons do NOT cost $304.49 and these extracts can be done in a week. They’re perfect for adding a nice punch of flavor to whipped creams, puddings, pies, cookies, cakes, icings, ice creams, and frostings.

how to make homemade citrus extracts (mint extract is in recipe notes)

You’ll need some citrus fruit (I’m using lemons and oranges, but you could easily use grapefruit or limes if the Spirit moves you) and high-quality vodka. When I say “high-quality,” I just mean don’t go get that giant jug of the cheapest stuff in the grocery store that comes in a plastic bottle and has probably caused alcohol poisoning among KKK members. You know, the stuff I bought at 11 pm one night when I read online that an environmentally friendly way to kill bedbugs is to add tea tree oil to vodka and spritz it upon your bedding. Take it from me, that doesn’t work. You gotta nuke those suckers with every poison available.

Anyway.

If you’re not a regular vodka purchaser and are wondering what a classy vodka is, my guess is one wearing a sweater.

Tito's vodka with a sweater

You’ll also want to select high-quality, fragrant fruit that doesn’t smell off or rancid at all. Wash thoroughly in warm water with a gentle soap like Mrs. Meyers to remove any wax from the peels. If you use a strong detergent like Dawn, there may be remnants of Dawn in your otherwise-delicious citrus extract.

vodka and fruit

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the topmost layer off each piece of fruit.

peeling a lemon

Place the orange peels in one glass mason jar

orange peels in a jar

and the lemon peels in another,

lemon peels in a jar

(if you’re using a quart of vodka, you’ll want each jar to be about half full of peels. For a quart of extract, use a quart jar, for two separate extracts, use two pint jars).

Pour the vodka over the peels. pouring vodka over lemons

Make sure the peels are completely submerged and then place lids on the jars.  Allow them to steep for at least a week (as long as the peels are covered, the alcohol will preserve the peels and prevent them from rotting).

homemade citrus extracts from our best bites

When the extracts are very fragrant, transfer to small bottles for gifting.

woman in denim shirt holding a salad bowl
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

    1. With the peels in? I’ve never left it that long so I can’t answer for sure. If the peels still look okay and it smells good I would think it would be okay but I can’t answer for sure!

  1. How long will this be good for? Like if I make it now from the abundance of oranges on my trees will it still be good for gift giving 9 months from now at Christmas time?

    1. Definitely! Once it’s in the alcohol, who knows how long it will take to go bad! ????

  2. I’ve got some hard-to-buy-for people on my list who would love these extracts. Are there any specific gifting-sized little bottles you’d recommend? I’m not sure where to find them. Thanks!

    1. Check out the bottles I link to in the vanilla post—those are the perfect size! ????????

  3. I started making the vanilla recipe the second week of November – so I am not sure if I will be giving it away this Christmas. But this is a great back-up plan that I can do this week. Thanks!

  4. “One wearing a sweater” ???? I still make homemade vanilla extract from your recipe, but I don’t give it to anyone anymore. I hide it at the back of the cabinet and, if anyone tries to use it, I wrap my arms around it in true Smeagol fashion and sneer “my precious” until they walk away to get the store bought kind from the pantry. ???? ???? I’m super excited to try these citrus ones!