Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Kitchen Experiment: Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

I love reading the Simple Lives Thursday posts over at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.  There are always so many new recipes I want to try.  This past Thursday I came across a post by Wardeh over at GNOWFGLINS about making homemade vanilla extract with bourbon.  When I first read the post I was shocked!  You can make your own vanilla extract?!  No way!  I really had no idea it was even possible.

I started googling 'homemade vanilla extract' and saw that there were lots of posts in the blogging world about  homemade vanilla extract.  Huh.  Who would've thought?  I quickly decided to make my own...and a trip to Penzey's was in order.  I bought 5 tubes of vanilla beans.  I was shocked when the cashier asked me if I was making vanilla extract!  She said that they had been selling a lot of vanilla beans lately, and that many people are making the extract now to be given as Christmas gifts.   

After reading lots of posts about it, here's what I've learned.  You can use vodka, rum, or bourbon.  It's really up to you and your tastes.  Vodka has a very 'clean' taste...it doesn't really add flavor to the vanilla, so that's what I chose to begin with.  You should use a dark colored glass.  Apparently sunlight is bad.  I'm not sure why.  Of course, I don't have any dark glasses handy (although I did see one post where the person put the vanilla extract into a dark colored beer bottle...sterilized, of course.  The thing is, you need a lid.  I'm not sure where they got one.)  I decided just to use a pint jar and a plastic lid, and I'll keep it in a dark cabinet.  If I happen to come across a dark colored glass with a lid (at a good price), I'll get one (or two or three).  Also, the jar of vanilla extract that you make can be a never-ending jar.  You just add more vodka and more beans as you use it up.  You could have the same jar for years or decades!  Lastly, vanilla beans will give you all of their flavor in about 6 months.  You can then remove them from the jar and re-purpose them (more on that a little later).

If you're a baker or you use a lot of vanilla extract, making your own might be an economical decision.  You could also develop your own signature flavor (depending on the liquor your choose or the strength you make it).  Do you want to know how it's done?  Well, I'll show you!

First, get a clean glass container with a lid.

Then slice 6 vanilla beans lengthwise.  This exposes the beans on the inside.  There is no need to scrape the beans out of the pod.  Next, cut the pod into sections about 1 inch long.


Then add the sliced vanilla beans to the jar.



Next, add 16 oz. of vodka.


Then, shake the jar, and admire!


Remember, I stated above that sunlight is bad.  So store your jar in a dark place.  Shake it when you remember to (could be daily, could be weekly).  When will it be ready, you ask?  Good question.  From what I've read, anytime after 8 weeks is good.  You will achieve maximum flavor from the vanilla beans by 6 months.  Then you can remove the pods and use them for something else.  I recently used vanilla beans to make some vanilla sugar for some jam.  Allow the pods to dry, then place in a container with some sugar.  Shake it up occasionally, and you'll have some yummy vanilla sugar!  It's great with strawberries!

6 comments:

  1. I've made my own extract before. I like to let mine steep at least 6 months. Sunlight is typically bad for any kind of "steeping" like when you add herbs to alcohol for a tincture. Try using Everlight, too, for a STRONG flavorful vanilla. MMMM.
    Makes GREAT gifts, too, wrapped in a pretty jar :)

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  2. I'm excited to try the results (although I'm going to have to wait quite a while). Hmmm...I didn't know that sun was bad for steeping. It makes me think of sun tea...that steeps...in the sun. But, who am I to argue? Those are the rules...put it in the dark...so that's what I'm going to do!

    I may have to make some more, for gifts. I'll have to be on a search for pretty jars. I never really pay attention to stuff like that. Now i'll have to keep my eyes peeled!

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  3. I never even thought about doing this but I'm so glad I came across this post! I have vanilla beans that we got in Tahiti and I had no clue what to do with them. I will definitel be trying this! Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier!

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  4. Such a unique thing to can. I'm soooo glad you linked up to our "Canning Week blog Party". Have you signed up for the great give-a-ways on Jen's blog???

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  5. New to your blog Came thru Ott,A's blog I loved the idea of making the vanilla I am excited I really do allot of baking I even use it in apple pie

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  6. I just found your blog this morning and have really enjoyed reading it!! VERY NICE! :)
    I have been making my own vanilla for a while now and use vodka for the same reasons! The last time, I just used the vodka bottle and put it back in the brown bag and into the cupboard! (I didn't have the dark bottles either!) In the past, I've used well washed out worchestershire sauce, A-1 & the small premix mudslide/white Russian (that come in 4packs) bottles. I've found that if I mention to friends/family that I need dark bottles, most will save them!! Soon you'll have more then enough!! :) They do make awesome gifts.... a little ribbon & a tag & viola! Everyone is thrilled! :) ENJOY! HAPPY CANNING & BLOGGING!
    BLessings,
    Melanie

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