Making your own vanilla extract is quick and simple. Honestly it is. Another added benefit is that you get a great quality ingredient in your pantry at a fraction of the cost of some commercial products. You can use your vanilla extract knowing that it doesn't contain any artificial ingredients, and you can even choose to use organic vanilla beans if you so wish. I've just finished a big jar of vanilla extract that I made before last Christmas. It was time to make some more, so I thought I would share the process with you. It is also a fantastic time to make it if you would like it to be ready for Christmas gift giving in a couple of months. Its a beautiful gift. Something homemade, practical and not too complicated.
Vanilla really is one of those aromas that is irresistible. It seems unlikely to me that a plant with a long history of use like vanilla would be without medicinal benefit. It's reputed to enhance mental performance and mood, and contains compounds that are known antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. One thing I would like to make a special note about is artificial and natural additives. Because of vanilla's popularity, it has many imitators that lurk processed foods. Also, be sure to look out for Annatto (160b) which is a natural orange/yellow food colour used increasingly in many vanilla products. While it is naturally derived, some individuals who are sensitive to artificial additives or natural food chemicals report reactions to it. Just something to be aware of if you fall into this category and are trying to decipher your tolerance of particular foods. Another reason that real food is the best choice.
Back to my vanilla extract though! The liquid will darken over time in your pantry, and the picture below is of a vanilla extract ready to go into storage before use. It can be stored for a very long time due to the preservative action of the alcohol. This liquid is generally used 1tsp at a time which makes the alcohol content quite negligible per serve when used in baking or cooking. I also use mine in smoothies, muesli, stewed fruit or slices. The vanilla beans can also be reused, by adding more vodka to them. This depends on how long they have been infused for already. I thought 12 months was long enough for mine, so I made a nice new batch. While I am usually a huge advocate of quality ingredients, I do not feel the quality of the vodka matters much in this recipe, as long as it is a pure product.
I hope you enjoy this simple kitchen project.
500ml of vodka
5 whole vanilla beans
- Cut vanilla beans in half length ways to expose the beans
- Cut them to the right length to fit into your desired jars
- Place the vanilla beans into your clean jars (roughly 1 bean per 100ml vodka)
- Pour vodka into jars
- Store in the pantry for 2 months or more
- Give as a gift or keep for yourself!