I love my homemade vanilla sugar and always have a big jar available. However,I also need the extra oomph of vanilla extract for much of my baking and dessert recipes.
I use so much vanilla extract, I decided it was high time to learn how to make it myself, at home.
Buying those small bottles of vanilla extract from the supermarket is an expensive indulgence. The teeny, tiny jars of vanilla paste, so luscious and perfect to use in recipes where you want vanilla flavour, and the vanilla seed flecks, well, they are even more expensive. The rate I go through the stuff, I knew there had to be a better way.And there is.
Making vanilla extract and vanilla paste is EASY! There are a few foundation principles that must be followed but really, all you need is a couple of ingredients and TIME.
Don’t be alarmed at the use of alcohol in the recipe. Extracts rely on alcohol acting as a solvent to extract the flavour compounds. If you have a look at the labels on supermarket vanilla extract, you’ll see that alcohol is the primary ingredient.
Alcohol evaporates when cooked, leaving you with only the flavours of the extract, however, if you prefer a non-alcoholic extract, I have sourced a recipe HERE that uses glycerin as a solvent. Just one suggestion if you decide to make this recipe; use more vanilla beans. The quantities I specify in my recipe will also apply if you choose to use glycerin.
I have used vegetable glycerin as a base for herbal tinctures before, and I think it makes a perfectly acceptable alternative to alcohol. I also like the thicker, more syrupy texture of extracts made with glycerin. If you’re in Australia, vegetable glycerin is available online from these guys in Melbourne.
To make your vanilla extract, you will need:
Cheap is fine, you don’t need to buy a premium drinking vodka, it’s the alcohol you’re after.
I bought 750ml for $29.00 and used all of it.
* vanilla beans.
I bought online. It is the only way to buy vanilla beans in any quantity. I chose extract quality beans. They are cheaper, not because there is anything wrong with them, they’re just relegated to being “seconds” in regards to size and shape.
To make a true, authentic extract, you will need 6 vanilla beans per cup (200ml) of vodka.
All you do is split your beans and put them into the bottle of vodka.
You’ll notice I removed 150ml of vodka to bring the volume down to 600ml. I used 18 beans for this quantity.
The 150ml mini bottle got three beans. It was really just going to be used for a cocktail but it was so good, I ended up adding it to my Spiced Brandy Infusion.
Shake your bottle when you remember and take the lid off for a big sniff too!
I’m actually not sure if either of these 2 steps are essential but they’re good for the cooks’ soul.
Use your extract exactly as you would store bought, same quantities, teaspoon for teaspoon.
I have got some special plans that go beyond just making this beautiful homemade vanilla extract.
Remember how I mentioned that I do like a syrupy vanilla extract? Well, purists may well slam me, but, I will be removing a portion of extract to mix with a very small amount of light Karo syrup. This corn syrup is not high fructose corn syrup, it’s just a thick, sweet, old-school sweetener that serves 2 purposes here.
1) It thickens the extract.
2) The sugar reduces the effect of somewhat harsh effect of alcohol on the palate. It just makes it less harsh, smoother in the mouth.
When my beans have finished the extraction process, I plan to use the spent beans, along with some fresh bean, some of my vanilla extract and some glucose, Karo Syrup or glycerin for a wonderful homemade vanilla paste.
My next project is to make a larger quantity of vanilla extract aged in wood. I will use a seasoned cask, previously used for port maturation. My plan is to age it in the wood for at least a year.
I hope that you have a wonderful time making your own vanilla extract. It’ll be such a joy to create, not just for yourself but also as a very special gift for your food-loving family and friends.