Monday, June 28, 2010

Make your own Vanilla Extract.

Having sworn off white sugar (any sugar really) and most all grains entirely, i like to know what is in the stuff i use.  I like to have vanilla in my homemade yogurt, but i found that many vanilla extracts available have sugar added or other unnecessary ingredients.  I don't really call myself a purist, but when i can control the ingredients of a thing and make it myself, i find it to be another fun project.

So i make my own Vanilla Extract.

Its super easy.  Just find yourself a good source of fresh beans (i suggest eBay, its where i got mine, there are good sellers there).

Depending on how much extract you want to make, you can buy as many as you want.
I happened to get a large batch of beans because i plan to use them for things besides extract and i plan to use the beans themselves as well as the extract i make as gifts.

This spread cost me under $30 including shipping. 

The recipe is simple,  about 6 beans per cup of extract. The only other ingredient is Vodka.  Smirnoff works well, it has the right balance of price and taste for my purposes.
I am making double strength extract so i can dilute it if i want or just have that extra rich flavor in my recipes. Regular recipes say 3-4 beans per cup of Vodka.

So i start by measuring the Vodka.
I have 12 relatives i plan to give the finished extract to for Christmas, so i need at least 24oz per batch.  I have two types of beans, Madagascar and Tahitian.  Madagascar extract is the most common type available, Tahitian is rare as an extract but it has distinctive different flavor.  So i am making a batch of each.
I want to have some left for myself so i am going to make 26 ounces of each.  So i needed 52oz of Vodka.  A 1.75 liter bottle gave me plenty with some left over.

Weighed for each jar:
 One pound, 10 ounces give or take.  (zero out the jar on the scale first)

That equals roughly 3 and one half cups
And for double-strength extract, that's 6 beans per cup.... 21 beans needed

Slit each of the beans lengthwise and scrape out the insides

Into the jar it goes. 

 Rough chop the rest of the bean and put it in the jar....  repeat 20 more times ;o)

Cover and shake.  

Here are the Tahitian beans:

A second jar, before shaking.
Allow to steep at room temperature out of direct sunlight.

This is what the jars look like after one night of steeping.

The extract needs to steep for at least 6 weeks.  The beans can be used about 3 times. I heard of people simply topping their jars off with fresh Vodka and adding the occasional bean.  The extract can last indefinitely since the Vodka's high alcohol content keeps things quite sterile.

Strain it through a fine mesh, bottle it and use like store-bought, or use it straight from the jar. The bean particles settle out of the way so you can do this.

I plan to purchase a number of  new 2 ounce glass bottles with dropper tops, i'll make a nice label to go on them and they should be a unique and useful gift. 

There are DIY Vanilla extract recipes out there that are non-alcohol. Usually the vodka is subbed with glycerine. Not the solid bar soap glycerin, but the liquid type. I have bought it at the pharmacy before, i used it to make bubble bath, lip balm and other homemade cosmetic items.I've never bought it for edible purposes but as far as i know the pure glycerin is safe to eat.  It is more pricey than Vodka.

The recipe i found for Non-Alcohol Vanilla Extract is:

12 oz Glycerin
4  oz warm water
2 Whole Vanilla Beans

Procedure is the same as the regular method, split, scrape and chop the beans into the liquids, keep in a glass jar, shake often. Should be ready to use after a month or so.  I'd probably double the bean bill. But that's me.


Pam J. said...

So interesting! I would love to try's just my kind of thing. But. (And it's a big but.) Ten years ago I realized I had to give up the vodka. Eight years ago I finally succeeded. So there's no way I could bring a bottle into the house to make vanilla extract. It's hard enough to sit at a dinner table watching others drink beautiful glasses of wine. Glad you commented on my blog --- I'll keep watching how your garden grows!

Faith said...

Great tutorial! I thought you made it by putting a whole bean into the vodka. I didn't know you scraped it out. Learned something new. :o)

Amazing how much that stuff looks like water....

Did you see the Mythbusters on vodka? Funny. LOL


icebear said...

Hi Pam, you know i was thinking about the non alcohol thing, i have a lot of friends who have had to let it be for religious convictions and/or personal reasons. I think i was actually editing in the non-alcohol recipe within minutes of your comment, i thought that was pretty cool so hopefully its a good recipe and you might be able to give it a go.
I have enjoyed reading about your bees and have wanted to post questions, but i have too many to burden you with out of the blue, but its a fascinating hobby. I wish i could keep bees but i'd need larger property and less hooliganesque neighborhood kids! lol.

Thanks for stopping by :o)

icebear said...

Faith- i think i remember that one, they filtered cheap brands through activated charcoal and had an expert taste them to see if it would fool him... if i remember right, it didn't- which means his career was justified! :o)

Some people grind their beans in the food processor and some just split them. I guess as long as the fluid can get thoroughly into the bean it works, and if it steeps for 6 weeks with regular, vigorous shaking i can't imagine there is any part of the bean that won't be invaded by the alcohol even if its only split.
But i use the option in the middle- split, scrape, chop... blending it is overmuch IMO.
And your hands smell of vanilla for the rest of the day. :o)

Leigh said...

What a great idea. We make a lot of our own herbal tinctures the same way, but I hadn't thought about flavorings. I like the idea of the indefinite method.