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Home-made Vanilla Extract

January 15, 2014

Looking at some websites about cooking, I came across various people telling how easy it was to prepare vanilla extract at home, and how good it tasted. So, I decided to give it a shot, and proceeded to read a lot of those posts with advice on how to do it.

Instead of plain alcohol, and then dilute it somehow, it is much easier to start from a plain spirit like Vodka (obviously, the unflavored one), at 40% has a perfect alcoholic content for extraction and use in cooking and, plain as it is, it still gives a more round flavor to the extract. On this point, all posts were concordant. On the other hand the amount of vanilla beans with respect to seemed to vary extremely from one recipe to another, going from meager 2 pods to an astonishing half a pound per 700ml (which is the content of a standard vodka bottle). I was puzzled, and after some research, I decided to go for something in between the different recipes… 20 beans for 700ml of Vodka.

As a spirit, I used a plain Vodka; do not go for one of the very cheap brands, use something you would not be ashamed to use in a cocktail. Finding good vanilla pods was just a matter of find an organic shop nearby. They had organic vanilla pods, pretty fresh (judging from the date on the package), at a reasonable price (2.7 euro for 2 pods). I sliced the pods lengthwise, scraped the tiny seeds inside (where most of the flavor is) and put all inside a 1 liter bottle, then chopped the beans and added the pieces too. Finally, I added the vodka and shook well.

ingredients_small   resting_small

The mix has to be shaken frequently (2-3 times a day) for the first week or so, then shaken not so often for the rest of the time. Keep the bottle in a dark cupboard, away from light, possibly without extreme temperature changes. You will see something floating on top of the liquid (look the dark patch in the photo of the green bottle), do not worry, those are some of the seeds and the other stuff inside the bean which is floating, it is NOT mold. The longer it is left maturing, the better, three months at minimum, but six months is much better. You can open the bottle and smell/taste it, to decide when to stop.

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So, I waited six months, and then filtered it (two times) using a cloth filter and then a paper filter, to remove as much as possible the seeds and small particles and placed the filtered liquid in a new bottle for storage. The remains of the beans has to be thrown away, there is nothing more left to be used inside.

Since 700ml are a lot of extract, I prepared some small bottles to use them as a gift to friends which loves to cook; I added in each small bottle half of a pod, to decorate and give it an extra kick. While I still have to test it in a proper cake, I tasted it, and tried using a drop of it to flavor my tea… and seems to me quite good. It is still possible to appreciate the initial vodka flavor, and does not taste like the super-strong super-sweet artificial flavor (vanilline), but is more round and aromatic.

bottled_small

Next time I’ll try starting from a white RUM… I much prefer it to Vodka, and I do believe the flavor works better when preparing a cake…

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From → Food Project, Project

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