OK, so I was so enticed by all the information I found on making your own vanilla, that I couldn’t wait and decided to make my own ASAP. It’s remarkably simple and I think it will yield a great lot of vanilla that’s much cheaper and better than what you can buy in the store. Here’s a picture tutorial on how to make your own!
You will need:
- 1 airtight bottle
- 3 vanilla beans
- 1 cup of vodka, preferably 100 proof
- About 6 weeks of waiting :-/
1) Buy some vanilla beans.
I’d suggest finding them online. I checked the grocery, and two itsy bitsy vanilla beans would cost $8.99. I got thirty Madagascan beans from the Boston Vanilla Bean Company for $37.50, since this is what they recommend for extract. (If you bought that many at the supermarket, it’d be $134.85! Seems like a great deal to me…)
2) Check out your new beans.
I’d never actually seen/touched/used a vanilla bean before this project. When they arrived, I was surprised that they were really long, kind of thin, and most surprising of all, they were moist. They were packed in an airtight plastic bag and then tube, so they didn’t dry out on their way to me. When I opened them? HEAVEN. They smelled so, so good!
3) Split the top of the beans down the middle.
Conventional wisdom says that the more exposed the substance you’re trying to make extract from, the quicker and stronger the process will be. So, take 3 beans from your stash, and cut the top with a knife down the middle. [Side note: yes, that’s a coconut macaroon in the background. I made them just before the vanilla. You might notice them disappearing during the making of this tutorial 🙂 What?!? I was hungry!]
4) Open up the vanilla beans
If this is your first vanilla bean experience, you might be surprised at what you find. I know I was. First, your fingers grow to an enormous size! Just kidding. Actually, the part I didn’t expect is that the inside is quite moist and grainy, full of the black vanilla specks you might think of when you think of good french vanilla ice cream. At least, that’s what I think of! It’s fairly messy and gets all over your fingers if you’re not careful.
5) Cut the opened vanilla beans into ~1″ pieces
6) Break out the vodka!
When I arrived at the liquor store, I was confronted with row after row of vodka, all priced and branded differently. Luckily, I went to the yuppie liquor store next to the Whole Foods, where the staff is friendly, knowledgeable and probably very well-versed in which wines to pair with your Pennsylvania bailey hazen blue artisanal cheese or your Muscovy duck confit. Thankfully, the guy that works there also knows about extracts (doing this at home might just qualify as a yuppie task, come to think of it…). He was able to help me out of my deer-in-the-headlights stare and guide me to the appropriate alcohol to do the job. Here’s what he said:
- The higher the proof, the more efficient and strong the extract. That is, it extracts faster and tastes better.
- The best thing to use would be 150 proof grain alcohol (pure ethanol).
- The next best thing to use would be 100 proof vodka.
Ethanol sounded scary to me, so I went with the vodka. Plus, if I had any left over after my vanilla experience, I could actually drink it, whereas grain alcohol apparently tastes like the stuff you apply to your wounds.
I settled on the Smirnoff triple distilled 100 proof vodka. Number 57!
7) Prepare your oh-so-adorable bottle
Wash out your bottle. It can be any type of bottle or jar, as long as it has a cap (like a screw cap) or stopper like this one. I found this one at the Container Store. It holds almost exactly 1 cup of liquid, so is perfect and adorable for this task.
8 ) Fill the bottle with 1 cup of vodka and your cut vanilla beans
When this is done, feel free to eat a macaroon!
9) Shake your new vanilla extract 1x per week and wait!
This is the hardest part! The waiting, not the shaking. That said, it’s fun to shake the bottle when it’s all sealed up. You’ll see the brown specks begin to mingle with the vodka and the liquid will turn a very light amber. The mixture will darken over time. Right now it’s just barely amber, but after a while, it should darken to the luscious color of dark brown vanilla, so long as you regularly give it a good shake! I’ll try to post updates to show the progress.
So there you have it. Your own vanilla extract in 8 easy steps. I’d love to hear how yours turns out if you decide to make it!Posted by robyn on November 25th, 2009 under cooking, crafts
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I'm Robyn. Thanks for stopping by! This is my craft blog.
Contact me at robyn [at] dognamedbanjo [dot] com.