A couple of weeks ago I started a few tinctures and some vanilla extract. I had never made them before, and I was surprised at how easy it was. The hardest part will be the wait, which is about 6 – 8 weeks (or longer, depending on how strong you want ‘em).
Tinctures are basically liquid extracts of herbs, made by steeping the herb in alcohol, vinegar or vegetable glycerine. (More on the tinctures in a future post)
Vanilla extract is made basically the same way as a tincture. All I did was make slits in 5 vanilla beans (lengthwise), cut them in half and put them in a jar, covering them with 80 proof vodka.
I used the cheapest vodka I could find, which is perfectly fine for extracts and tinctures. I’ve seen different recipes out there, but learned that the rule of thumb is 5 beans per 1 cup of alcohol. You can also use brandy, bourbon or rum, but vodka has the most neutral taste.
Make sure the vanilla is submerged in the alcohol, and be sure to use a glass jar or bottle with a lid that seals tightly. You’ll want to shake the jar everyday for about the first two weeks, and store it in a cool, dark place. After 8 weeks the vanilla extract will be ready, although the longer it sits, the richer the flavor will be. Some say it will take 3 to 4 months to really mature.
Once its ready, you can transfer the liquid to another glass bottle or jar. You’ll know your extract is ready when it starts to smell more like vanilla than vodka. If you’d like, you can strain it with cheesecloth, or you can just leave the little vanilla bean flecks in the extract. You can then add more vodka to the original jar with the vanilla beans in it to make another batch or two.
You’ll most likely save money buying your vanilla beans online instead of the grocery store ( I got certified organic beans on mountainroseherbs.com )
I don’t have any personal experience with them, but I’ve also heard www.vanillaproductsusa.com and
http://www.olivenation.com are great places to get bulk vanilla, too. Another place to buy inexpensive, fresh vanilla beans is ebay.
Like most things that you make yourself, you can save money making your own vanilla extract, and control the quality of the ingredients. If you’d like, you can even use organic vodka. This DIY vanilla extract tutorial goes into more detail about making vanilla extract, and explains how to find high quality vanilla beans. In this article about the vanilla extract industry the author mentions that additives are often not mentioned on the labels of commercial vanilla extract. Some companies add sugar, corn syrup, stabilizers or caramel color. Imitation vanilla contains glyercine or propylene glycol (yuck), and chemically derived vanilla flavor.
I’m excited to use mine when it’s done. I’m looking forward to experimenting with some gluten free flours and bringing some raw pies back into the mix – recipe posts soon to follow.
Have you made vanilla extract? If not, do you think you’ll give it a shot?
Want more health-friendly tips + recipes? Sign up below: