Vanilla extract is one of the most common baking ingredients. A splash of vanilla extract can add that tiny bit of oomph to your baked goods, enhancing their flavor and making them that much sweeter and more delicious. Most Store-bought vanilla extract is not pure. Most commercial vanilla contains sugar, fruit juices, “natural” flavors and unnecessary additives.
Store bought vanilla certainly doesn’t possess the complex flavor that homemade, pure organic vanilla extract does. When it comes to vanilla, you cannot beat the taste and complex flavor fresh, organic Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans adds to homemade extract.
We’re going to show you why you should make your own vanilla extract from scratch and exactly how to go about doing so. If you consistently use vanilla extract in your recipes to enhance their flavor, why not make your own extract for cheap with quality ingredients.
Why Make Your Own Vanilla Extract?
There are a number of reasons why you should make your own vanilla extract, each one better than the last.
First of all, vanilla extract is cheaper when made at home. Yes, some initial investment in fresh organic gourmet grade A or grade B ( if you are on a budget) vanilla beans is necessary, but you only need a few to make a years worth of vanilla extract. The same amount can cost anywhere from 50 to 70% less than a bottle of the impure stuff from the store.
Making your own vanilla extract is incredibly easy. It takes less than a few minutes to prepare and you just need to allow time for the vanillin from the pods to seep into the alcohol or glycerine (alcohol free extract).
Another reason to make your own vanilla extract is it tastes better than store-bought. The flavor of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans has been described as rich, dark, and creamy as well as woody with notes of black licorice. You will not get to experience the taste of a true, complex vanilla flavor from artificial ingredients used in commercial vanilla extract.
Making your own vanilla extract is also incredible to give as a gift. Make a batch at the beginning of the year and it will be ready to go and still in its prime by December. The best part is homemade vanilla extract doesn’t expire – although it’s best to use it within the first five years.
Choosing Organic Madagascar Vanilla Beans
When it comes to choosing organic vanilla beans, you have a variety of options. The two most common and most readily available are Tahitian and Madagascar Bourbon. The bean you choose should come down to what type of flavor you prefer.
Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans are best suited to sweet desserts such as vanilla ice cream and custard although it’s hard to go wrong with adding these beans to any recipe that requires vanilla. As mentioned, the flavor of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans can be described as sweet, rich, dark, and creamy as well as full-bodied and woody. They’ve also been described as containing hints of raisins and other dried fruits.
Tahitian Vanilla beans have light, floral overtones with hints of cherry and anise. They pair well with recipes that include fresh, tropical fruits and berries.
You may also notice an option for gourmet grade A or grade B vanilla beans. Gourmet Grade A vanilla beans are of the highest quality and are incredibly moist and oily. Using gourmet grade vanilla reduces the amount of time you have to wait for your vanilla extract to be ready due to the high vanillin content and oils in the pods. These beans are ready to be used in any recipe that calls for vanilla as a flavor or ingredient.
When it comes to making your own vanilla extract, Grade B beans can also be used especially when you are on a budget. Although they contain less moisture and are not as oily as the Grade A beans, their lesser water content makes them ideal for extraction.
Now that you’ve decided on your beans, you need to decide what type of alcohol to use to extract the flavor.
What is the Best Type of Alcohol to Use?
If you’re looking for a neutral taste with the natural vanillin flavor from the vanilla bean at its ultimate intensity, using a neutral liquor like vodka is the best way to go. If you’d prefer that your extract has more of a complex boozy taste, using a liquor such as rum, brandy, or bourbon could be ideal for you.
The FDA states that commercial-grade vanilla extract is required to be at least 70 proof or 35% alcohol content. This makes the average bottle of vodka just about perfect, at 80 proof or 40%. Be careful that you’re not using a liquor with too high alcohol content. If this happens, it can dilute the flavor of the vanilla, making it taste weaker. This is because some of the flavor compounds in vanilla beans are water and/or alcohol soluble so it is not true in this case that a higher level of alcohol makes the taste stronger.
Recipe for Homemade Organic Vanilla Extract
There are only two ingredients to making homemade organic vanilla extract and they can be adjusted depending on the amount you wish to make. The ingredients and supplies you need are:
- 8-10 Organic Vanilla Beans
- 1 cup (8 oz) of vodka
- Clean and dry glass bottles/jars with tight-fitting lids
- Time (3 to 4 Months )
If you’re going by what the FDA considers to be an extract, you need just about one ounce of vanilla beans per eight ounces of vodka. The amount of vanilla extract you wish to make accounts for how many vanilla beans you use.
- You have two options when it comes to cutting your vanilla beans. You can cut them in half lengthwise or you can cut the beans lengthwise and then cut them in half widthwise so they easily fit into your bottle or jar. The second option will strengthen your extract in a shorter period of time.
- Place your cut vanilla beans and seeds into a clean jar, pouring your vodka on top. Again, make sure the proportions are at least one-ounce vanilla beans to every eight ounces of vodka or more.
- Seal the jar and give it a good shake.
- Store your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place like a pantry but do not refrigerate it. This can cause mold to grow on your beans and will ruin your extract.
- Write a label on your extract to keep track of when it was made and leave it to mature for at least 2-4 months or more (the longer the better). Give it a shake every now and then. At this stage your vanilla extract is ready.
- You can leave the “cuttings” in the vanilla extract and top it off with more alcohol as you use it or if you wish to strain your extract use a double layer of cheesecloth and secure it by rubber banding it to the top of the jar – the “cuttings” can then be kept to make vanilla-infused sugar.
As you can see, the only possible downside to homemade organic vanilla extract is that you will not be able to use it instantaneously – but, if you can be patient and want to make your treats that much more flavorful and rewarding, we’d say it’s definitely worth a try. Plus it’s cheaper, did we mention cheaper?