Vanilla extract is ridiculously easy to make and very rewarding. In my opinion, homemade has far more flavor than regular store bought vanilla. But it does take time so you will want to start now so you can have it in time for your holiday baking and gifts.
Vanilla is definitely not boring as one definition of the word suggests. The bean itself has an interesting history, and the flavor of the bean is definitely complex. There is so much interesting stuff about vanilla that I would have to write a whole post just to do it justice. Instead I will give you some links (below the recipe) where you can learn more about it and some sources where you can buy it. But for now lets get busy making it!
This recipe can be multiplied depending on how much you want to make at once. The recipe below will give you about a cup of extract.
You will need
- Jar with lid large enough to hold as much vanilla as you want to make at one time.
- Bottles for finished vanilla
- cheesecloth for straining
- 5-7 whole vanilla beans
- 8 oz. alcohol – vodka, rum, brandy or bourbon (my favorite)
- Split the vanilla beans lengthwise, and scrape the seeds out with the edge of a spoon. Add seeds and beans to jar. If the beans are too long for the jar just chop them to a size that will fit in your jar. Pour the alcohol into the jar making sure it covers the beans completely.
- Give it a shake, set it on your counter (out of the sun) and let sit 4-6 weeks (giving it a shake each day). I like to go six weeks to get more flavor, but if you need some sooner go ahead and use it. Just be sure the beans don’t stick up above the alcohol. You can add a little more alcohol if you need to after taking some of the vanilla out.
- When the sitting time is done, it’s time to strain it. I like to put a strainer over something I can pour from (measuring pitcher), then put the cheesecloth in two layers into the strainer. Pour everything into cheesecloth and strain. Now you can pour your vanilla extract into amber glass bottles. Dark bottles are best for keeping out the light. If all you have is clear bottles, be sure to store it in a dark cupboard. Some people like to save a bean and leave it in the bottle for a nice look. Your beautiful bottle of vanilla extract will last for years, but mine never gets the chance.
Here are the links I promised you
- Mountain Rose Herbs: decent prices from a company with an impeccable reputation for quality organics, fair trade and environmental practices. Beautiful website with lots of herbs, spices and much more.
- Beanilla: a site devoted completely to vanilla. Variety of bean types as well as a variety of purchase sizes. You can buy just one bean or buy up to 5 lbs! Also lots of interesting information about beans and where they come from. Purchase other ingredients such as spices , chocolate and coconut. A fun site to browse.
- MexicanVanilla.com: This link takes you to a page that tells a little bit of history of the vanilla bean. But look around, there’s other fun stuff. You can also buy vanilla, beans, extract and paste.
- Nielsen-Massey: All about vanilla, plus lots of info. Check out the history and origin of the beans, as well as recipes. From what I could see they only sell by the pound and you have to contact them for prices. But it’s a fun site!