How to Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
Once you start making your own vanilla extract you'll never go back to expensive grocery store options again! You might even be so thrilled you venture into making other extracts as well... orange spice, lemon drop, cool spearmint, the possibilities are near endless.
In this post, I'm going to show you how to make the easiest and most widely used extract, true vanilla extract. I've been making this extract for years. The type of vanilla bean you use is important. The two primary options are Madagascar vanilla beans and Tahitian vanilla bean. Most commercial extracts that are not synthetic use Madagascar vanilla beans for their true vanillin content and heat stability. Tahitian vanilla beans are more delicate and floral. I don't use Tahitian vanilla beans, but I suspect their repeat use would be limited. I'll describe what I mean in a moment.
To get started, order some Madagascar vanilla beans, 5-10 are ideal. They're almost always less expensive ordered online than purchased at a store. Shop around a little to find the best bargain.
Next, decide which solvent you want to use. The FDA specifically defines vanilla extract as a solution containing 13.35-oz of vanilla beans per gallon of solution and with at least 35% ethyl alcohol by volume. The rest of the volume of vanilla extract is usually made of water. Often ethyl alcohol is used because it imparts no flavor of its own, and alcohol in general is a good solvent, easily extracting the vanillin from the vanilla bean and infusing it into the rest of the solution. However, a medium to high-end vodka or brandy is the easiest to use.
I like to have at least two bottles extracting simultaneously. I've used mason jars, empty (and thoroughly cleaned) olive oil bottles and single-serving glass screw-top wine bottles. This latter size is perfect or gifts.
This bottle I'm holding is a new one I just started using French brandy with five vanilla beans.
Here's what you'll need to get started:
• 5-10 Madagascar vanilla beans
• enough vodka or brandy to cover
• a screw-top bottle or jar
1. Thoroughly clean bottles or jars and rinse with boiling water. Allow to air dry.
2. Using a sharp paring knife and cutting board, slice each vanilla bean in half, lengthwise, keeping the top of the stem intact.
3. Insert each vanilla bean inside your bottle/s and fill the bottle to the top with your solvent.
4. Store the bottle/s in a cool dark location and give 'em a shake whenever you think of it. After two weeks, start sniffing. They should be the color of weak coffee and smell distinctly of vanilla. The more vanilla beans used per bottle, the faster this will happen.
5. The same vanilla beans can be reused multiple times. You can either refill your bottle with your solvent of choice using the same vanilla beans or add 1-2 more new vanilla beans (split) to your bottle. Keep doing this until you can't fit any more vanilla beans in your bottle. You don't have to add new vanilla beans each time you refill the bottle, but it will take longer for the extract to be strong enough each subsequent refilling without the addition of new beans.
6, These vanilla extract bottles can be kept in rotation almost indefinitely.
Here are some delicious ways to use the older (squishy) beans:
• use them in custards
• add them to pound cakes
• stir them into puddings
• add them to water and sugar to make vanilla syrup
• allow 1-2 to dry on wax paper then add them to your sugar canister to make vanilla sugar
• grind several in your blender with 1/2 cup strong coffee; dilute with additional strong coffee, pour into ice cube trays nd freeze for use in iced coffee