Friday, August 5, 2011

Make Your Own

Vanilla Extract!

I use a ton of vanilla extract, do you? The great thing about vanilla extract is it never goes bad. The awful thing about vanilla extract is that REAL extract is super expensive and in teeny tiny bottles. When I found out how easy it is to make your own vanilla extract, I decided to go with it and not ever pay for store extract again... I hope. Also, this is vanilla extract in it's purest form - no artificial colors or corn sweeteners added like the manufactured extracts. Yummy!

What you'll need:

Vanilla beans
Dark glass bottle with a tight cap
Sharp knife and cutting board
Boiling water (optional)

You will need about 1 ounce of vanilla beans (about 7-8 beans) per cup of alcohol. I used three beans for about 1/3 cup of vodka. Just know, you can't use too many beans! The more beans, the stronger the extract. Where to buy vanilla beans? This has become a problem lately. Nature's Own (in 195 restaurant in Southern Pines) used to sell them in bulk bins. Now they only sell organic beans that are $11 for two vanilla beans. I couldn't find them anywhere else around (although I haven't checked Fresh Market yet) but I would try to find them at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods,,, or if you live near a small health food store, check there. I bought three beans for just under $3.00 at a little health food store near my mother-in-law's house.

I used a root beer bottle with a wine cork. Dark bottles protect the extract from direct sun exposure which isn't even a problem in my kitchen, but better safe than sorry.

I used Smirnoff vodka, mainly because it was a good, average-priced vodka. It needs to be at least 75-80 proof, but there's no need to pay more than $20 in my opinion. I can't even remember now how much I paid for this but I think it was around $12-14.

If you like, you can boil your bottle, wine cork and knife 30 minutes prior to use. This is totally optional and I did not do it.

Step 1: Cut the beans lengthwise.

Step 2: Scrape beans.

Lay your cut bean flat, exposed side up. Run the knife along the bean so that it scrapes up all the stuff from the inside of the bean. A butter knife will get out the gunk and not shred up the actual skin as bad as a steak knife, just FYI.

Step 3 - Chop the skins.

Cut the beans into small pieces, which will make a stronger extract.

Step 4: Fill bottle with beans.

Stuff the bean pieces and the "gunk" from the inside of the beans into the bottle.

Step 5: Fill with vodka.

Step 6: Shake.

Week 1 - Shake the bottle vigorously every day for at least the first week. If seed and fibrous chunks swirl in the bottle, this is normal. By the second or third day the extract should be a bit darker.

Week 2,3, and 4 – Shake the bottle a few times a week.

Week 5 – Congratulations, you have a very raw vanilla extract! If you want vanilla seeds in your recipe give the bottle a shake before pouring. Use some. Yum! Use some more. Top up the bottle with alcohol if you expose any vanilla beans.

Month 2 – Month 6 – Give the bottle a shake when you can be bothered.

I got my information for making extract from here. If you go to that website you will also see steps to filtering your extract after six months, and how to make vanilla sugar from the remains of your extracted beans. I love the fact that absolutely no part of the bean goes to waste!

Vanilla continues to mature indefinitely, much like wine, so you never have to worry about it going bad or stale. I am extraordinarily bad at math but I do know at the price I paid for the vodka and the vanilla beans, my extract is MUCH cheaper than paying for it at the store.

Anyone else ever made their own vanilla (or other) extract?

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