Tuesday, 3 February 2009

How to make Vanilla Extract

One of the most useful ingredients I have in my cupboard is Vanilla Extract, I use it for all kinds of baking and desserts. Whether I use it for a full on vanilla flavour as in vanilla ice cream, or as a subtle background flavour in brownies and cakes, it is an ingredient I couldn't be without.

The vanilla orchid is native to Mexico although Madagascar is now the worlds largest producer supplying 59% of total production, it is the second most expensive spice with only saffron costing more. The vanilla bean is actually the seed pod of the vanilla orchid, a plant which is not at all easy to grow. Each flower must be pollinated by hand and each bean must be harvested by hand, the beans then have to be dried and cured for several months before they can be used. The whole process is very labour intensive so if you've ever wondered why vanilla costs so much, that's why!
Although buying vanilla from the shops is expensive it's surprisingly easy to make your own extract, all you need are vanilla beans, vodka and patience. It will take 2 months before it is ready to use but after that you should never run out again, just top it up with vodka and add a fresh bean every once in a while.The vanilla beans themselves are widely available online (try Ebay and Amazon) and at a fraction of the price of the supermarkets, it is well worth ordering in bulk as they keep for a couple of years well wrapped.

To make your own Vanilla Extract

You will need:
  • A 350ml bottle of vodka (Cheap stuff is fine for this)
  • 5 vanilla beans
Method:
  • Split the vanilla beans lengthwise almost all the way but leaving them intact at the base.
  • Push them into the bottle of vodka, place the lid on and give it a good shake.
  • Store in a dark place for at least 8 weeks and give it a good shake now and again.

23 comments:

Hopie said...

Wow that doesn't look hard! I'm going to have to give it try. Who knew vanilla extract was made with vodka!

Joie de vivre said...

Really? Is it that easy? That's amazing! (and that's a lot of vanilla extract!) So when it is in the store, it is made out of vodka? Or is this just another way to do it?

Joie de vivre said...

Sam, Chocolate and Zucchini blogged about this same topic today! I put a little plug in for your blog in my comments. :) She used rum in hers. I'm tempted to try both and compare.

Navita said...

thanks for sharing this great recipe. i love vanilla...n this iwll help :)

my first time here n i love this place..

wud be nice if u cud swing by mine sometime :)

Beth said...

I have to try this Sam. I go through loads of Vanilla Extract - 2 months is a long time to wait though

Sylvie said...

Sam let us know how it works out for you! I've heard people say that you need far too many vanilla beans to really flavour the vodka enough, so that it ends up being dearer than the extract you buy. That's always put me off until now.

Sam said...

Hopie:It really is that easy!

Joie de vivre:The Vanilla extract you buy at the store is made with grain alcohol which is almost identical to vodka.

Wow I had no idea it was on Chocolate and Zucchini as well what a coincidence! The rum version sounds good too, I'd love to hear how that works out. Thanks for the plug!

Navita: Hi Navita, thanks for dropping by!

Beth: It's a long wait but once it's done you'll never need to buy vanilla again, just keep topping it up.

Sylvie: I used five vanilla beans which would be quite expensive in the shops but they are surprisingly cheap online. I bought mine from Ebay and got 30 beans for £10, they're £1.50 each in the supermarket so that's a huge saving, the quality was excellent too.

Andrea said...

I love all of your homemade basics. This is so easy and I'm sure ridiculously delicious!

Margaret said...

What a good idea. I would never have thought to make my own.
I too buy my vanilla beans from Ebay.

gastroanthropologist said...

And when your vanilla is ready when you open the jar for the first time the vanilla aroma just fills the room. I prefer vodka to rum, as rum has more flavor and seems to over power the vanilla.
I did this actually as christmas stocking stuffers this past year - its special and everyone loves it!

mikky said...

now, all i need are vanilla beans... thanks for sharing... :)

Kadeeae said...

Thanks for this, Sam. You say they keep a couple of years wrapped well. Is this just in a cupboard??

Sam said...

Andrea: It smell ridiculously good so I have high hopes!

Margaret: I love Ebay, it's for things like this.

Gastroanthropologist:I was thinking of giving some away as gifts, I know I'd love to receive this kind of thing!

Mikky: You're welcome!

Kadeeae: Yep just In a cupboard, they'll go mouldy if kept in the fridge and I dread to think what the freezer would do! I keep mine wrapped tightly in a plastic back in a biscuit tin, it works well.

croquecamille said...

We used to do this at my old job, and I can't believe I haven't started doing it at home myself!

As for storage of vanilla beans, the freezer is just fine, as long as they are well wrapped so they don't get freezer burn.

Pam said...

Sam, you are so darn clever. I've never thought to make my own vanilla extract - excellent post.

Nicisme said...

I m ade my own with brandy, but I think the alcohol was a bit strong. I might try it with Voddy, yours looks excellent!

Navita said...

thanks for stopping by..hope i will see u more often.:)

Selba said...

This is interesting...

Here in Indonesia, the vanilla is in powder form, usually made in China.

Anne said...

Hmm vanilla + vodka = sounds wonderful! Not sure I could resist 8 weeks though, barely made it to 4 for my cranberry vodka!!

Amanda said...

Sam, you've read my mind. I was just thinking I should talk about DIY vanilla--but I'll just point people to you instead!

I agree--making it yourself is too easy not to, much cheaper, and a far superior product. For me, it was really the only solution, because so many of the better-quality extracts contain sugar or corn syrup.

Home-made vanilla is also delicious for sipping and adding to cocktails.

I've been told the beans last well into 5-7 years this way by just topping off with vodka. Let's hope for 5-7 years of top-quality vanilla! Hooray!

Foodycat said...

That looks so easy! I will have to be brave and sacrifice some vodka.

James said...

Just this morning I was thinking I should try making vanilla liquor - left over vanilla pods, sugar & gin or vodka. Doing this seems great too.

Tony said...

I just popped over and wanted to say I like what I've read of your blog and also - your vanilla extract post looks so much more professional than mine! I'm jealous!