Homemade Vanilla Extract
Don’t look now but it’s already November. With the holidays looming, it’s time to begin making all the wonderful homemade food gifts you plan to give this holiday season.
High on my list of food gifts to make is homemade vanilla extract, a perfect hostess gift or thank you gift. I simply pour the extract into a small amber glass bottle and add a handwritten label and festive ribbon. Your favorite baker will love a large bottle of homemade vanilla – it will be a prized item on its own or as part of a baking themed gift basket filled with new baking sheets, muffin pans, measuring spoons and cookie cutters.
By making your own vanilla, you’ll enjoy a high quality, additive-free extract made with just two ingredients: vanilla beans and vodka. Timing is everything – you must age the extract at least 4 to 6 weeks. If you start now, you’ll have just enough time to brew a few batches: one for gifts and one to keep.
I’m sharing the basic recipe I use to make vanilla extract. It scales easily; just be sure to maintain the ratio of beans to vodka. I use good-quality 80 proof vodka (40% alcohol). A higher proof is unnecessary – commercial vanilla extracts are, by law, only 35% alcohol by volume. Vodka is virtually flavorless and produces a purer vanilla flavor. If you don’t like vodka, you can substitute brandy, rum or bourbon. If you do, the extract will be a blend of flavors: vanilla plus the flavor of the spirit.
Like a fine wine, vanilla extract improves with age. At 6 months, the full extraction process is usually finished. Remove the beans from the extract and use them to make vanilla sugar (see recipe, below). Pour the extract into clean, sterilized bottles. Filter the liquid first if you don’t want vanilla seeds in the final extract. Store the bottles in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Vanilla extract will keep for many years.
Need more information? VanillaReview.com has a wealth of information on vanilla beans and making vanilla extract.
Your Turn: Do you make a special food gift that family and friends look forward to getting year after year? Tell us about it and share a special memory or two attached to the recipe.
We’re looking for a tried-and-true alcohol-free recipe for vanilla extract – do you have one? The alcohol-free recipe I’m sharing uses glycerin and water as the carrying agents. Although I haven’t tested this recipe, other bloggers have cited or shared it.
Vanilla Extract Recipe from CHEFS Mix
1. Take a paring knife or other knife with a pointed tip and, beginning about a half inch from one end, split each bean down the middle lengthwise.
2. Pour vodka into glass container. Submerge vanilla beans completely in the vodka. Cover tightly with lid. With a marking pen, write the date on the bottom of the jar or bottle.
3. Place in a cool, dark place for 4 to 6 weeks or longer. Shake once a day during the first week, then once or twice a week thereafter. The clear vodka will gradually turn a deep brown.
Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract Recipe from CHEFS Mix
Adapted from PetitChef
Bend each vanilla bean until it cracks open slightly. Place all the vanilla beans in the jar. Add glycerin and water. Shake to mix. Let sit for a few weeks in a cool, dark place. When ready, use like regular vanilla extract. You can reuse the vanilla beans by refilling the jar with glycerin and water. The beans should last for some time. When the vanilla flavor begins to lose intensity, add a fresh vanilla bean to the extract.
Vanilla Sugar Recipe from CHEFS Mix
1. If you have “used” vanilla beans from your homemade vanilla extract: Air dry the beans for several days. Fill a glass jar with 2 cups of granulated sugar. Cut 3 or 4 dry vanilla beans in half and add to jar. Tightly seal jar with lid. Shake gently to mix. Let the sugar mixture sit for about 2 weeks to allow vanilla beans to infuse sugar. Use vanilla sugar in hot beverages and baking recipes.
2. If you have fresh vanilla beans: Fill glass jar with ½ cup sugar. Split 1 vanilla bean down the center, lengthwise. Scrape seeds from pod and mix with the sugar. Add another 1-1/2 cups sugar to the jar. Cut pod into 2 or 3 pieces and add to sugar. Tightly seal jar with lid. To mix, shake 4 or 5 times vigorously. Let the sugar sit for one week before using. Use vanilla sugar in hot beverages and baking recipes.