One very unusual day, I found myself running out of vanilla extract, an otherwise absolute staple in my pantry! Usually when I am half-way through a bottle, I make sure to grab another one on my next trip to the grocery store just to make sure I never run out... I don't know what happened this time. I guess everything happens for a reason because it led to this experiment which I am so excited about! I decided to finally try my hand at making vanilla extract at home!
Expensive as it can be, vanilla extract, aside from flour, butter, and sugar, is an indispensible ingredient in baking. It's mellow, floral notes enhance the other flavors of your baked goods. It's kind of like what salt does when you add it to foods. It enhances the flavor of just about anything baked. The bonus - it's incredibly easy to make yourself.
All you need is some alcohol like vodka or light rum and some vanilla beans. There are all different kinds and grades of vanilla beans out there. Vanilla beans come from Madagascar, Tahiti, and Mexico to name a few. Each, with its own distinct taste can be used in various types of desserts. When buying vanilla beans, the grade is very important. Grade A is the purest quality and Grade C is the least. Grades are predominantly dependent upon the length of the bean. When using vanilla beans, try to get Grade A beans for optimal flavor.
I purchased an assortment of vanilla beans from beanilla.com. The service was great and the beans arrived within a few days. They had so many different types of beans too, which was great for my experiment.
I used a 3:1 ratio of beans to cups of alcohol - three beans to one cup of alcohol. Make sure you slice the vanilla bean lengthwise before adding it to the alcohol to release the beans into the extract. I used an airtight container to seal the extract and I periodically shake the bottle to redistribute the vanilla beans. The extract changed color within a couple of days to a beautiful bourbon shade. Just remember the longer you keep it "brewing," the deeper, more complex flavor your extract will have. I plan to keep mine brewing for around two months. After this, strain the liquid and voila! You now have vanilla extract. Homemade, cheaper, and no doubt yummier than the store brands. In two months or so, I'll be blogging the results of this exciting experiment.. Stay tuned...!