- How to make vanilla extract
How to make vanilla extract
Making your own vanilla extract is surprisingly easy. Here is all you need to do:
1) Use 1/4 pound of beans for every quart of extract that you want to make.
2) Chop the beans into 1/2 inch pieces. Slicing is OK, but it is a waste of time.
3) Use 70 to 90 proof inexpensive name brand Vodka.
4) Shake daily for one month. Voila! Homemade Vanilla Extract!
Yes, there are lots of vanilla extract recipes that tell you to use "x" beans to make "y" ounces of extract. The problem with that is that there can be anywhere from 70 to 250 beans per pound, depending upon the length and quality.
Use name brand inexpensive Vodka like Smirnoff. Some people like to use rum or brandy, but the less taste the liquor imparts, the better. You can always add the flavor later.
You can try making extract from Madagascar or Tahitian vanilla beans, and you can use extract grade or prime gourmet grade beans. However, you won't necessarily make better extract by using prime gourmet beans.
The easiest liquor to use is Vodka, which is about 35 to 40% alcohol (the 'proof' is double that number - 80 proof Vodka is 40% alcohol). If you choose to use "grain alcohol", which is up to 100% alcohol (DON'T use isopropyl alcohol or any other type of alcohol not meant for human consumption, it can kill you), add two parts distilled water for each part alcohol in order to bring it down to the same proof as Vodka. Otherwise, the beans will dry out (it will NOT speed up the extract process). The term "made with 100% grain neutral spirits" does not mean that the contents are 100% alcohol. The bottle should have the alcohol content listed.
Shake the bottle once a day for about a month. Voila! Homemade vanilla extract. You may want to filter your finished product. There is no harm in leaving the beans in.
Suppose you want to make a pint of vanilla extract. By law, commercial producers of vanilla extract must use at least 0.8 pounds of beans for every gallon of extract that they produce.
However, commercial producers have a more sophisticated production method than just chopping the beans and shaking them in a bottle. We suggest using more beans in order to ensure that you get a strong enough extract when you are done - we recommend a pound per gallon. This works out to one ounce of beans for eight ounces of extract.
We sell beans by the ten pack as well as by weight. The weight of a ten pack varies depending upon the species, quality (gourmet or extract grade), and length. For our typical 6 to 7 inch varieties, the weight is roughly one ounce for Madagascar beans, either Grade A or Grade B.
Most commercial vanilla extract comes sweetened. This helps cut the alcohol smell, but it is not needed. You can do the same by adding some corn syrup or sugar water - about 10% by volume.
How do you know when the extract is done? Smell is one way, and another way is by the color - it should be a nice deep amber color. You can't compare the color to what you buy at the store because vanilla extract manufacturers often add coloring agents.
Finally, just like tea bags, coffee grinds, and bubble gum, vanilla beans only have so much flavor in them. After you are done making extract there really isn't much flavor left in them.