homemade vanilla
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How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract : Part One

I am really excited about this one! I have ALWAYS wanted to make homemade vanilla. When you like to bake as much as I do, or even better yet, how much my mother does…you tend to go through vanilla like it’s going out of style. Just a couple of weeks ago, I got halfway through a recipe and realized that I was out again. Of course, leave it to Garrett to save the day and rush over to the Dollar General to grab some. Always my hero!

But vanilla is also one of those ingredients we wonder about. Or at least I do.  Are you really getting what you’re paying for?

What really stirred my interest was when my mom and grandmother went on a cruise that stopped in Cozumel, Mexico. They usually pick up little things here and there to bring home, like most cruise-goers do…but they brought me something yummy! A bottle of real Mexican vanilla. It was done up all cute with a sombrero glued to the cap (no doubt to entertain the tourists) …but it was the fragrant, flavorful life juice found on the inside that was exciting. One whiff and you just KNEW it was stronger and better than what you got at the typical grocery store…or Dollar General {wink wink} So, what was it that made this vanilla SOOO much better than what was sitting in my cabinet?

The FDA regulates that vanilla extract must contain at least 35% alcohol content to be labled as “pure”. Buying pure over imitation is a step in the right direction….but have you ever read the label? Store bought vanilla typically uses a variety of additives and sweeteners.

Homemade vanilla uses 3 ingredients: alcohol, water and vanilla bean. 35% alcohol should be the minimum amount used. Most vodkas contain at least that amount. We chose to use 40-45%. We bought vodka and everclear then diluted the alcohol content with distilled water.

Garrett is so supportive. When I told him I wanted to make this homemade vanilla he was all over it. It was when he realized he could turn it into an experiment that he was like a kid in a candy store. This is partly why he chose vodka AND everclear. He wants to see how different they are when they are finished. For example, how does one type of bean react with this type of alcohol and which tastes better. To put our tastebuds to the test we will make something simple, like icing, and use each different extract seperately, deciding which are our favorites and our least favorites.

What to Buy

Garrett spent a few days deciding where to purchase our vanilla beans. He settled on this website. The beans were shipped in a timely manner and vacuum sealed when they arrived. We did find that grade B beans were best for the extraction as there is less moisture in the bean itself. The extra moisture in the grade A beans would further dilute the mixture, thus causing it to take longer for a good, strong extract.

Start Making Vanilla

So, to start is really very simple. The very first step to take is to disinfect the container you plan to use. Mason jars are what we suggest. If not mason jars then use a glass container.

Next, dilute your alcohol to 35%-40% using distilled water. Most vodka is typically around that amount anyway so if that is the case you can avoid the math altogether (which would definitely be my preference lol) However, if you use a different type of alcohol you will need to figure out where you need that ratio to be.  It is recommended that home extraction should be 1 oz. of beans to 1 cup of liquid. You’ll notice on the labels above that ours is not exactly 1:1. That is because we wanted to keep the different flavors separated for our “experiment”. So we just adjusted the measurments based on the weight of that particular type of beans.

Once you have done this, go ahead and measure out your beans. If its easier for you, measure them out to 1 oz.

After you have weighed your beans, you will want to cut them. HOW you cut them is completely up to you. Some people prefer to cut them lengthwise to better expose the seeds on the inside. We chose to cut ours into pieces.

Once you have done that, place the cut beans into a jar with the alcohol you have already measured. Screw on the lid and give it a shake. Make sure to label it!

Now, Be Patient

Now we must be patient. For the best results, your vanilla will need to sit for at least 2 or 3 months….however, longer is recommended. Store your jars in a dark cabinet or closet at room temperature. For the first week or so shake the vanilla every day. After that it should be sufficient to shake about once a week.



4 Comment

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