Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tutorial: Making Vanilla Extract

We bake. A lot. Which means we go thru alot of vanilla extract. I like making my own because not only is it economical, but I have complete control of the taste of it. And it makes great presents. First, you want extract, not flavoring. Extract is the real deal. It is make from vanilla beans, and alcohol. Some add water to the extract after it is poured off the beans but to be considered extract, it must still be at least 35% alcohol.
When you make your own, you choose the variety and quality of beans and the type of alcohol. Madagascar (also known as bourbon) beans and vodka are the most common.
This time, I wanted to do an experiment with flavors.
You will need glass jars with a tight fitting lid. I bought these at Hobby Lobby. They were less than $2 each and this week all glassware was 50% off!! Can't beat that. I actually contacted the home office to make sure they were food safe. The ratio is 3 beans to 1 cup; each jar holds 2/3 c. so that was 2 beans each. Make sure your jars are clean and ready.
Next choose your alcohol. Alcohol extracts the flavor of the beans. It should be 80 proof. I wanted to experiment so I used vodka, dark rum and brandy. It's kinda funny because we don't drink at all but I have this one liquor store that I go to. The man there is real nice and knows I don't drink and usually have no idea what I am looking for. I might only go in there twice a year (making vanilla or making herbal tinctures) and I guess he doesn't have many customers like me because he remembers me. Anyway, I tell him what kind I need and the proof and what I am using it for and then buy what he recommends. Do NOT add any water in this step!!
This time I bought mine from a reputable dealer on Ebay. I actually bought more than this (Gourmet variety for other uses) this is actual "extract" grade. I am experimenting with Madagascar and Tahitian.
Next label your jars.
Stop right here - if you are doing this as a gift for someone who has everything...make sure they have a label maker. Simply a must have. When I first got mine, I labeled everything in the house. Awesome invention.
Now, back to the labeling the jars. This is important especially if you are experimenting with different varieties. There's nothing worse than finding the perfect combination and then have no idea how you make it.
Next, split your beans. Now, I usually split them right down the middle and leave about an inch at the top. Depending on your jars you  might cut the whole thing. You can even cut the bean into segments. I also "loosen" the beans a little by gently scraping the knife along the inside. See those little brown specks? Yummy vanilla goodness.
Shove the beans in the jar. Doesn't matter if you fold them up some. You really can't go wrong.
Then add your alcohol. Make sure you get the right kind to match the label. The liquid needs to completely cover the beans.
Then do the same with the other beans. That's if you are using more than one variety. Gently shake the jars and place them in a cool, dark place. Like inside a kitchen cabinet. You will want to shake them pretty often. At least once a day for the first week, maybe three times a week afterwards. When the vodka is amber colored, it's done. I usually make mine wait about 3 months to get the best flavor. I also put mine in where I keep my coffee and tea to make sure I shake them regularly. You know - out of sight, out of mind.
What combination have you tried? I will post when it's done and let you know the results.

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7 comments:

  1. I've always wanted to do this! Thanks so much for sharing and linking up!

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  2. I am so excited to try this. I may even make some for Christmas gifts. TOO COOL!

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  3. That's awesome! I can't wait to try this!

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  4. So interesting... I can't wait to try this! Thank you for sharing. ~Prairie Story

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  5. I've wanted to do this forever! I need to get on the stick!

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  6. Oh how I want to try this! I already have the beans!!! I'm FOLLOWING you and am anxious to know your results!!! Thank you so much for sharing this.
    Hugs to you,
    Donna

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  7. I have been making my own vanilla extract for a few years now and the flavor is fabulous! I don't bother removing the beans from the extract before using. I have alway used vodka, but I love your idea for using Brandy and Rum. I just got a bunch of different beans from an online source and can't wait to try the different liquors with them! Thanks for the idea!

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