Not many people think about making homemade vanilla extract. It isn’t difficult to do at all and takes only a few supplies. The most difficult part of the process is waiting for it to age to perfection, which will take a few months. Why should you make your own vanilla? The benefits are astounding:
- More intense flavor
- Unique blends
- Less expensive
- Be self sustaining
- You know what is in it
- It makes great gifts
Did I mention cheap?
The main ingredients in basic homemade vanilla are vodka (or other high proof alcohol) and vanilla beans. You can use a variety of vanilla beans to create a more complex flavor, and use organic if you like.
Varieties of Vanilla Beans
- Madagascar – the strongest, most intense vanilla flavor, with full a body
- Bourbon – notes of berry and ripe fruit
- Mexican – sweet and smooth, mellow and spicy
- Tahitian – delicate, exotic, floral
- Tonga – rich, full flavored
- Indonesian – sweet and woody
- India – higher percentage of seeds, sweet, woody, spicy
There are even more vanilla bean varieties that that. Commercial manufacturers usually use the Bourbon or the Tahitian bean for extract. Look at all the flavor you could be missing!
How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract
The process couldn’t be simpler. You need:
- Quart Mason jar
- Lid and screw down ring
- 2 cups vodka
- 6 vanilla beans
1. Cut the beans in half lengthwise.
2. Add the beans to the jar.
3. Cover with the Vodka.
4. Store in a cool, dark place and shake every couple of days for at least a month. The longer you let it stand the more intense the flavor will be. I like mine to go at least six weeks. When it is just how you like it, strain it through a coffee filter or cheesecloth into dark bottles and seal tightly.
- Add a few buds of edible lavender.
- Add a whole clove.
- Add part of a a cinnamon stick.
- Add a teaspoon of brandy per eight ounces. You can also make the vanilla in brandy or rum for a different flavor.
You can vary the flavor of your vanilla by using different combinations of beans or adding another spice during storage.
How to Use Homemade Vanilla
You are going to use your homemade vanilla extract just like the commercial variety, measure for measure. You may find that you need a little less because of the flavor, or you may just get used to having the most amazing desserts on the block.
For gift giving, label the dark bottles with a custom made label. More than likely your friends will be knocking at your door for more as soon as they have used the last drop.
Where to Buy Vanilla Beans
You can buy vanilla beans almost anywhere but you probably won’t find much of a selection. Here are some Internet sites that carry a variety of beans, as well as organically grown beans:
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By Marye Audet, Planet Green