Do not be fooled by imitation vanilla. The difference between pure vanilla and imitation vanilla is simple; pure vanilla extract is made from whole vanilla beans extracted using 35%+ alcohol – that's it! So to make your own vanilla extract you simply need some good quality Vanilla beans and some good quality alcohol with 35% volume, and then follow the simple steps revealed in the blog post, “Homemade Vanilla Extract” over at averiecooks.com…
Homemade Vanilla Extract
To make vanilla extract you need vanilla beans. Beans hail from Mexico, Madagascar, Tahiti, India, Indonesia, Tonga and a handful of other countries. The country of origin of the bean impacts the final flavor of the vanilla extract but like coffee, unless you have a supersonic palate, discerning a Madagascar bean from an Indian bean is like discerning a cup of Kenyan from a cup of Colombian coffee, easier said than done for the average person. Select a bean that sounds good to you. There are no wrong choices here.
When selecting beans, they should be soft, pliable, tender, and flexible. Oily is good and bans that are dried out, hard, have mold on them, or look like dried out sticks should be avoided.
Next, you need alcohol (at least 35% by volume) in order to extract the vanilla from the vanilla beans, thus the name, vanilla extract. I use vodka that I’d use in a cocktail rather than frathouse bargain vodka that produces hangovers. Skyy happened to be on sale at the grocery store the week I started this batch of extract and was $13.99 for a 750ml bottle (about 25 ounces). There are times I have paid $13.99 for a four-ounce bottle of vanilla; do that bad math. And then make your own vanilla.
Bourbon, rum, or brandy may be used instead of vodka. Vodka produces a cleaner and lighter vanilla extract; bourbon produces a heavier, more complex and moodier, if you will, type of extract. Dark rum, light rum, spiced rum, or brandy will all effect the taste of the final extract compared to vodka, which imparts almost none. In certain chocolate-based recipes, such as brownies or chocolate cake, bourbon-based vanilla is nice and complements the chocolate but in general, and for most baking, vodka-based vanilla extract is my preference.
You need a glass jar that seals in which to make extract. It doesn’t have to be fancy and any clean glass jar with a lid will do. This 8.5-ounce swingtop bottle is perfect for the job and I added five Tahitian Vanilla Beans to it and topped off with one cup (8 ounces) of vodka and sealed it off. The rule of thumb is 5 beans per 1 cup vodka.
I figured as long as this was a two-month project, I may as well extract in bulk…