Making your own Vanilla Extract

Did you know that some varieties of  Vanilla Extract that you buy in shops often don’t contain real vanilla?  Making your own is so easy and makes your recipes just that bit more special and unique.

True vanilla flavour comes from the cured seed pod (bean) of the vanilla orchid. Vanilla Extract is the flavour and aromatic essence of vanilla, infused into an alcohol base for more versatility and storage.

Making Vanilla Extract requires just a few things.  A bottle of Vodka or any bottle of alcohol (at least 40% alcohol), good quality vanilla beans, a knife and a pair of scissors.   Vodka is commonly used because it has no real ‘flavour’ itself, thus allowing the flavour of the vanilla to dominate.  Rum can also be used and although I’ve never used Rum myself, I can imagine it would make certain baked goods and desserts taste better, Christmas desserts especially come to mind…..

Many recipes say to use from 4 to 8 vanilla beans per 1 Cup (250ml) of alcohol…. I wasn’t really counting and added many more when I think of the quantities I used. There are many types of vanilla beans and you want to make sure you buy fat, juicy ones and not those dehydrated twigs that you see at the supermarket.  Buying them online in bulk also is less expensive and more cost effective.  Mine were from Madagascar.

Using a sharp knife, slice lengthwise each vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds (sometimes known as caviar) from inside.

Pour out about half the vodka from the bottle and set aside to use later.

Add the seeds that you have scraped out of the vanilla beans into the bottle of vodka. Using sharp scissors, cut each bean into 3 or 4 pieces and add them to the bottle too.

Once you’ve finished with the vanilla beans, fill bottle with vodka previously set aside until the bottle is full.  Close the lid, shake and set aside in a cool, dark place.

All you need now is patience. Shake the bottle a couple of times a week, and although some will say you could use it after a month or two, I recommend waiting at least 6 months.

You can strain it into smaller bottles to make original and very special gifts.  Mine has never been strained and I use it directly from the bottle.

The Vanilla Extract that I have at the moment has been sitting in the bottle for a couple of years.  It is a lovely dark colour and occasionally I can be seen opening the bottle and inhaling deeply!