I have been making some vanilla extract for my chef sister and as soon as it was ready I discovered I still have enough left to make into thank-you-for-your-Christmas-present present to give to friends. So I decided to do just that, took out a few apothecary bottles from the pantry I can use and went to work. I've had this batch of vanilla extract for exactly 15 weeks and 2 days.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
Vanilla extract is very easy to make and you really only need two key ingredients: vanilla beans and alcohol. Immerse split vanilla in alcohol and believe it or not, that task is the hardest part; the rest is nothing more than sitting and waiting.
Usually I go for this formula:
1/2 cup alcohol for every 3 vanilla beans
That’s because the vanilla beans I usually buy from The Vanilla Co. come in packs of 3, but you know, if you want to make larger batches, just do that math.
CHOICE OF ALCOHOL
Clear, flavorless high-proof vodka may be your best bet for an exclusively vanilla flavor. I have used rum to make vanilla extract with Tahitian vanilla beans last year and it worked just as well although it tasted significantly different from the usual vodka-vanilla combination. If you were willing to experiment, maybe you’d find other types of alcohol to use for this purpose.
I’m no expert but I have a feeling the alcohol is primarily there as the liquid to extract flavor from the vanilla beans and seeds. In which case, then it can be just any liquid, water perhaps if we’re going for flavorless? The idea is for the extract to mature without spoiling and water may not completely help achieve this. Liquor, on the other hand, does not turn quickly and might even help in the aging and extracting process, hence, the use of alcohol. Compounds don't just as easily dissolve in water, I suppose. Of course, those are all my thoughts, scraps from high school chemistry and just a lot of maybes. So ask an expert when you get the chance.
For this current batch I used vodka and a batch of Bourbon vanilla beans. Bourbon is the type of vanilla and not to be confused as made with bourbon whisky.
MAKING VANILLA EXTRACT
Slice the vanilla beans in two; the split should be lengthwise. Immerse the vanilla beans in vodka. Seal tightly and store for at least 2 or 3 months. Keep it in a dark place and give it a good shake once in a while.
You can keep the extract for your own baking and culinary needs or you can decant in smaller bottles and they would be perfect gifts for anyone or even as small party favors.