How to Make Vanilla Extract: Step By Step Guide
If you have the lovely habit of using a lot of vanilla extract in recipes as you cook and bake, then have you ever given any thought to making your own. It is actually straightforward to make your own vanilla extract from your own kitchen instead of buying the often-expensive store-bought bottles. You can make amazing tasting vanilla extract with the right choice of vanilla beans and a few techniques that help you to create it at home. Follow this step by step guide on how to make vanilla extract.
What Is Vanilla Extract
This much-loved ingredient has long been made in the same way, vanilla extract is created by removing the flavor from vanilla beans and transferring it to some type of alcohol. Vodka is mostly used as it has will usually have neutral flavor into which the vanilla pods can infuse. Other alcohol may sometimes be used, but then again, they will then be contributing additional flavors to your vanilla extract. You are able to use brandy, gin, or rum to make your own vanilla extract. To understand how many vanilla beans are used in relation to units of alcohol you just need to follow some simple steps to making vanilla extract.
Step 1: Know Your Beans
It is important to look into many of the different varieties of vanilla beans which are available to you before you begin making your own vanilla extract. Vanilla beans come from all over the world, and there are many variations to pick from which all have a diverse flavor to them. Madagascar vanilla beans are rich and dark with a high vanilla content, more so than most other vanilla beans, while Indian vanilla beans are dusky and oily with a suggestion of spices. Flavor as with anything is a personal choice so do your research of the many beans around.
When you know what you want in terms of flavor, you can purchase high quality whole vanilla bean pods from gourmet stores or online for a better selection to select from. Vanilla beans ought to be moist with oils when you buy them and feel relatively solid to the touch. Fresh vanilla pods should also give off a strong vanilla scent.
If they are lightly colored or seem dry, then they will not be good to use. Although Grade A gourmet vanilla beans are thought of as the best for cooking with usually, when you are making vanilla extract the Grade B vanilla beans are perfect as they have much less moisture in them which works best in the infusion process.
Step 2: Opening Fresh Vanilla Pods
No special equipment is needed to make vanilla extract and it is simple to split open the vanilla pods. Simply place them onto a cutting board and with the end of a sharp kitchen knife take off the end of vanilla pod. Next run the tip of the knife down the length of the vanilla bean pressing down firmly as you go down the centre of the bean to get it to open on one side.
When making homemade vanilla extract, not everyone will want to undertake this the slicing step and may instead want to keep the vanilla pod whole. If you do slice them open, then you will undoubtably be making your final extract more intense with flavor because you are essentially letting it all out. But for many people, the tiny black seeds that will infuse your vanilla extract can ruin the appearance of your final product. You can find a compromise to ensure that your final vanilla extract has lots of flavor but ensuring that it does not become cloudy by simply slicing off the ends of the pods as an alternative to slicing them lengthways to open them up.
Step 3: Bottling Up
In order to make the best vanilla extract try to use green or brown glass bottles. Dark colored glass helps to defend vanilla extract from direct sunlight as it sits on your kitchen shelf. You can do one of two things now. Firstly, you can just put the sliced vanilla beans, a minimum of 5, into your chosen bottle of vodka. Place them straight into your bottle and reseal the cap again tightly. Give the bottle a moderate shake to dispense the contents. Secondly, you can purchase decorative glass bottles that you add all your ingredients to. After you have added all your vanilla pods you can fill the bottle with your selection of liquor.
Give some thought to the quality of the vodka that you are choosing to use as the extract can last years for years if you use a high strengthen liquor. A high proof vodka of over 40% may last longer and your vanilla pods will have then had more time to infuse.
If you are making vanilla extract to give as gifts, then it is probably wise to sterilize all bottles and equipment that you are going to be using prior to use. Continuously sterilize any tools that come into direct contact with your vanilla pods. You can steam, sterilize or boil clean your glass bottles for at least half an hour before you are ready to use them.
Step 4: Infusion Time
You will need to allow your sealed-up bottle of vanilla extra to become fully infused with the vanilla pods. You should put the bottle in a cool and dark area of your kitchen where it will not get to above room temperature. You should permit the extract to completely infuse in the alcohol for at least a couple of months to get the full flavor effect.
As it infuses, the vodka or any other clear alcohol you have used, will begin to change color and turn to a golden color instead. You may wish to shake your bottle every now and then to ensure the even distribution the vanilla taste throughout the liquor. Shaking disturbs the contents and keeps the flavors circulating, so try and do this on at least a weekly basis.
Step 5: Filter Your Extract
As has been said before, not everyone likes finding bits of the pod in their vanilla extract, so it is worth the effort of filtering your extract. Simply put a serialized colander over a bowl and run your extract through it to catch any mush from the beans. Then return your vanilla extract back into a bottle by using a funnel. Remember you still need to protect your vanilla extract from direct sunlight
You might even want to try filtering your vanilla extract at a much later date if you decide to skip this process in the beginning, because eventually vanilla pods will need to be taken out anyway if you are keeping your extract for months at a time. Vanilla pods will dry out with increased exposure to air as you keep opening the bottle to use it.
Step 6: Knowing When Your Vanilla Extract Is Ready
To work out whether or not your extract is ready to use or not is a matter of personal choice. After having left it sealed for a few months you need to open the bottle and see how the extract smells, if it smells strongly of vanilla then you are probably nearly there. You can even taste it now and if your extract has a wonderful vanilla flavor then of course it will be ready for you to use.
If when checking for the first time, you are only able to taste the vodka, then you will need to just replace the top on the bottle and allow your extract to continue to infuse for a further number of weeks before you try to use it again. At this point you may even want to add fresh vanilla beans for additional concentrated flavor. If at any time the extract is not seeming to taste powerful enough, then leave your pods in your bottle of alcohol and give it some more vanilla pod to strengthen the mix and let it sit for a few months more before you try using it.
Why You Should Be Making Your Own Vanilla Extract
At the end of the day, homemade vanilla extract will be an exceptional gift for family and friends at special times of the year. All that is needed on your part is a small amount of effort and some patience. Not only is making your own vanilla extract budget-friendly, it can also be a fun process to create something of your own and it will produce incredible results that you cannot buy from your local store. With the unbelievable amount of access to an array of vanilla beans that you can purchase from the internet, you have access to low cost vanilla beans, more so than ever before.
So, once you have learnt how to make vanilla extract then the homemade kind will keep for years thanks to the high alcohol content. Just follow the above step by step guide on how to make vanilla extract and you cannot go wrong.