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How to Make Vanilla Extract

This is one how-to that is worth doing.. it’s easy… you control the quality of the ingredients and it takes virtually no time at all to put it together. Best of all.. it is far cheaper to make your own… and you can ensure a high quality extract.

You do need patience.. though.. since you will need to give it time to age… 3-4 months… 6 months or more is optimum. More on that topic later. You will need to keep it in a cool dark place… a cabinet is fine. And you will have to give it a good shake every week or so.

What You Will need

You will need a airtight jar… a lot of sites advise to use a colored glass jar… clear glass is fine too … I use a mason jar… some vodka or rum… I use vodka … and of course .. you will need vanilla beans.

About the Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans tend to be expense in stores… I highly recommend Beanilla.com … I’ve purchased from them, they’re reasonably priced and their beans are quality beans… and I received my order quickly.

A lot of sites use 3-4 vanilla beans for each cup of alcohol… In my opinion, it’s not nearly enough.

I’m more in line with the Barefoot Contessa’s thinking, she fits as many as she can in…. I use about 8-12 per bottle of vodka, as she does. She also has noted, once she use begins to use the extract, she periodically replaces the vodka and adds fresh beans, removing the softened ones.

One final note about the Barefoot Contessa’s methods, she only waits a month before beginning to use it.

You can also use the beans from the pods for other uses in recipes by scraping them out. The extract will last indefinitely.. she noted that hers has been on the shelve for 20 years, using it, replacing it etc. It reminds me of sourdough starter.

There is also baker’s vanilla, which is 2x, which means it’s double strength. Professional bakers use this.

Choosing what beans to get… many people don’t realize there are different kinds of vanilla beans, each produce a distinctly different flavor.

The beans used most commonly are Madagascar beans, although other beans are also used to make extracts.

People mistakenly think that Bourbon Vanilla refers to the alcohol, it doesn’t. It refers to the beans from Papua New Guinea, it is named for the Bourbon French kings that ruled the island of RĂ©union when the method of hand pollination was discovered.

For more information about vanilla, read my post from last year.

About the Alcohol

Your vodka or rum should be a good quality vodka, between 75-80 proof. I use 80 proof. I try to make up about at least 2 cups or more at a time, a little more than a small bottle of vodka. I’ve been asked about brands, I use good quality vodka, the difference in price is not that much, and I want a good product. Talk to your liquor store about brands they would recommend. For the vodka, I have used Absolut, as well as, others.

What to do

Simply use a clean glass, air tight jar. I like a wide mouth Mason Jar. I use the quart size. You can always use a funnel to put it into pretty little jars (if you’re giving them as gifts) later on. You can always transfer it later to whatever type jar you find handy to use.

Add the alcohol to the jar. I cut my bean pods in half, then, using a sharp knife, slit it down the middle leaving the top point intact. Drop the cut bean pods into the alcohol and place the lid on. Give it a good shake and place it in a cool dark place…. And that is….. all folks!

This will be perfect in time for holiday gifts and baking… so get started now.

Remember to give it a shake once in a while.


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