September 23, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

My life is just great now. Normal. Vanilla. ~Jason Bateman

Vanilla is always associated with being ordinary and boring... Unfair, isn't it? For me, vanilla is playful, exciting, elegant, moody, exotic, sensual, classic! It's sweet yet spicy. Creamy and buttery. Floral and fruity. Hmm... woody? smoky? nutty? The taste and aroma just explodes inside your mouth whenever you taste anything with vanilla (real vanilla). And I'm thinking now, maybe if there's no vanilla in the world, our favorite desserts will be just plain, ordinary.... boring!

Vanilla extracts are very easy to make. You only need two ingredients. Yes! you read it right, only 2 ingredients. Vanilla beans and alcohol. For the alcohol, you can use rum, vodka, brandy, or bourbon. Make sure that it is 70-80 proof (35%-40% alcohol), check the label please.
5 vanilla beans (I used the Madagascar type)
1 cup alcohol (I used half vodka, half rum)

bottle with cap/lid

1. Wash thoroughly the bottle and the cap. Allow it to air dry.
2. Using a sharp paring knife, split the beans in half (lengthwise). 
3. Place the vanilla beans inside the bottle then fill it with your desired alcohol.
4. Put the cap/lid tightly and place the bottle in a cool, dry, and dark place. I just put mine inside the kitchen cabinet.
5. Give the bottle a good shake once in a while.
6. Wait (patiently) for 2 months or more before using it. The color will become darker and the flavor will become more intense as you wait longer. I allow it to age for 3 months before using it.

1. Once you use the vanilla extract, simply re-fill it with alcohol to replace what you have consumed. Give it a good shake occasionally.
2. If you want a unique gift for the coming holidays, you may consider this. Just put it in small bottles and print a cute label for your homemade extract. 
3. Do not refrigerate either the vanilla extract or beans as this can damage the extract and cause the beans to crystallize or dry.

(adapted from & joyofbaking)
1. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice next to saffron. Why? Because vanilla is the most labor intensive agricultural product in the world. 
2. Vanilla is the fruit of a thick green orchid vine that grows wild on the edge of the Mexican tropical forest.
3. Studies have shown that the fragrance of vanilla helps to lower cravings for high-fat foods.
4. Vanilla was once so rare and expensive that only royalty had access to it
5. The Aztecs developed the fermentation process of sweating and drying the beans to develop the vanillin.  They used vanilla to flavor their cocoa drinks "xocolatl".  Vanilla is still used today to flavor chocolate. 
6. Up until the early years of the 20th century vanilla was used in the pharmacy to calm upset stomachs. In fact, Coca Cola syrup was often used as a stomach sedative, and later, Coke was substituted for calming the effects of nausea. The reason? Coca Cola contains a large percentage of vanilla!

Happy homemaking,


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