Homemade Vanilla Extract For Baking
Learn how to easily & with minimal effort, make your own homemade Vanilla Extract. With no special equipment required, making your own can work out less expensive, not to mention taste amazing. Makes the perfect gift too, especially to your baker friends!
Why Make Homemade Vanilla Extract?
I often hear questions like – “Is it worth making your own vanilla extract?” Well here are a few answers
• Homemade extract tastes amazing & 10 times better than vanilla essence or ‘flavour’
• Can work out less expensive than buying quality vanilla extract in the long run
• Satisfaction of making your own vanilla extract
• No special equipment or effort needed, minimal hands-on time
• Know exactly what you are consuming
• Can last up to 10 years
• Great as a food gift
• Perfect for bakers
Vanilla Extract Or Vanilla Essence?
If you are not a baker, or only bake during the holidays, you might not realise that Vanilla Extract is much better to use than vanilla essence or vanilla flavouring. Vanilla flavouring and essence is extremely weak and in some cases doesn’t have any vanilla beans contained in it. So although it is much cheaper to buy than vanilla extract, you will have to use much more to feel the benefit in terms of taste.
Works Out Less Expensive
Over the last few years, buying decent vanilla extract has got quite expensive. So if you bake regularly, making your own vanilla extract can work out less expensive in the long-run. Here’s how:
• Buy the pods in bulk – online
• Use less expensive alcohol
• Use recycled Jam/Jelly Jars to store
• Used pods can be re-used
• Ask for pods for your birthday/Christmas
How To Make Vanilla Extract?
The process is extremely simple with no special equipment required. You are simply adding split vanilla pods to alcohol and leaving for at least 8 weeks.
Where To Buy Vanilla Bean Pods
The least expensive way to purchase the vanilla pods, is to buy in bulk and on-line. By bulk I mean at least 5 pods. If you can buy more, all the better, but 5 will get you started.
Buying single pods in the supermarket, in glass jars, is so much more expensive per pod, from the packaging alone. Buy on-line in bulk and try to get ones that are vacuum packed as that preserves the extract much better, with no chance of the pods going bad.
I can recommend online Vanilla store Vanillamart – my sons gifted me Papua New Guinea (PNG) Vanilla Pods on my last birthday and they have been just as good as the Indonesian I previously used.
Vanilla Extract At Day 1 & Day 9
What Alcohol To Use?
The second component you need is clear alcohol. Preferably a 40% alcohol, that equates to 80 proof, (note commercial vanilla extract usually is about 35% and 70 proof). Any alcohol spirits such as vodka, bourbon, whiskey, brandy or rum.
What Is The Best Alcohol To Use?
You don’t need to go buying expensive brands and can use what you might have in the cupboard. Those unwanted alcohol gifts are ideal for this and can make the cost of making your own extract even less. And if you can get the pods gifted to you too, it’s a win win (this is actually what happened to me so my first batch cost me zero £s).
Vanilla Extract At Day 17 & 25
What Type Of Vanilla Pods To Buy?
Now when looking for the vanilla pods, you want Grade A or Grade B, (B sometimes also being referred to as extract quality and Grade A for direct cooking). These can be either Madagascan, Bourbon, Tahitian or Mexican vanilla pods. More lately new varieties have emerged such as from Papua New Guinea, (similar to Tahitian). Each have different characteristics. The bourbon and Madagascar ones have the classic robust flavour that most of us are use to. The Tahitian version, has more subtle fruity and floral tones to it. And the Mexican has a smooth and spicy taste.
What To Store The Extract In
What Jars To Use?
The third thing you need is a glass jar or large bottle, that you will fill with the alcohol and vanilla pods. You do not need to go to the expense of purchasing a new fancy jar for this (if you want to give out some of the vanilla extract as gifts, you could purchase small pretty bottles later). Old jam/jelly jars and mason jars are ideal. The tall pretty ones you see are not so easy to get the pods in and out of, so a wider neck jar is best.
Do I Need To Sterilise The Jars?
Just clean the glass jars well before using, no need to sterilise.
How To Store Vanilla Extract
So those are the three things you need to make your own vanilla extract and somewhere cool and dark to store the mixture, until it is ready for use. A cupboard or pantry is ideal.
Remember To Shake!
Every week or so just give the jar a shake to get the seeds moving a bit and extract more flavour, into the alcohol.
Vanilla Extract At 5 Weeks & 9 Weeks
How Long Does It Take?
How Do You Know The Extract Is Ready?
So how long to leave the extract to develop? Well the agreed minimum seems to be 8 weeks. Be sure to label the jar so you know the exact date and can keep track of it. The longer you leave it, the darker the liquid becomes, and the more intense the flavour will get. Checking weekly or 2 weekly, you will see the colour change, the seeds expose themselves more and the initial aroma of strong alcohol will fade and once ready, it will be the vanilla scent that hits you first.
I took photos every so often of how my vanilla extract was coming on and by 9 weeks it was looking as good as the expensive brand I usually used (Nielsen Massey). I also tasted it straight, and I have to say the bought one tasted awful and there was no vanilla taste hitting me! So I feel confident in saying that by the 8 or 9th week, you can get a good enough extract. I left it a little longer though as I didn’t need it yet, and the last photo, (Photo 3 further down), is at the 10 weeks and 3 days stage. (See also the photo collages above, at different stages – day 1 – 17 & day 25 – 66 ).
***No need to wait 1 year or even 6 months as some sites claim***
Take some photos of your own and you will see your vanilla extract coming alive. Safe in the knowledge that this is quality extract.
Readers Who Have Tried It
Several of the members in my Facebook group also started making their own Vanilla extract too. Here are photos of Christine’s: showing day 1, day 21 and at 8 weeks + 1 day, using vodka & Tahitian vanilla pods.
**CELIAC & NON-CELIAC SUFFERS**
Please note that some alcohol that is derived from grain, may still have some left after the distillation process. There is debate about if it is gluten free and may still cause reactions to some celiac and non-celiac sufferers. Therefore, if making for yourself or someone who falls into this category, please research thoroughly the full list of ingredients within the alcoholic base you wish to use.
Gluten Free Alcohol Brands
I have below a list of brands my friend Margaret researched and found to be gluten free:
Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Crystal Head Vodka, Ciroc Vodka, Grey Goose Vodka, Cold River Vodka, Ocean Vodka, Dixie Vodka & Chopin Vodka.
Plain rum not made from grain: Bacardi, Havana Club, L. Longueteau, C. Caroni, Flor de Cana, Cruzan, Mount Gay, Myers & Rondiaz.
*Please also check this is still up to date information before using.*
Update – I used the extract for Xmas baking and that was about the 12 weeks mark and it was great. I could smell it was more intense that the Nielsen Massey Vanilla Extract I would normally use. So no need to wait 6 months or 1 year as some website’s claim.
Homemade Vanilla Extract For Baking
- 1 Jam/jelly Jar or Mason jar (at least 10 fl oz, 285ml capacity, preferable wide-neck)
- Small sharp knife
- Measuring Jug ( or Liquid Measuring cup)
- 3-5 Vanilla Pods (grade A or B, see above)
- 240 ml Clear Alcohol – spirit (1 cup, 8 fl oz – see notes above and Important Information paragraph)
Preparing The Extract
- Clean the jar well, including the lid and allow to air dry completely. (Place 2 pieces of kitchen paper/paper towel inside while sitting out & it helps absorb the moisture).
- Using a sharp knife, cut the length of the vanilla pod on one side, and open the pod to expose the seeds.
- If the pods are too long for the height of your jar, simply cut in half length ways.
- Place the pods into the jar and cover with the 1 cup/240ml of clear alcohol, making sure the pods are submerged. (If using more pods than recommended, increase your liquid content appropriately).
- Close the jar tightly and label the jar with the production date.
Leaving The Extract To Age
- Place in a cool dark area for at least 8 weeks. (A cupboard or pantry is ideal)
- Every week or so, check on the extract, noting it’s colour, it’s aroma and if the seeds are visible in the liquid yet. After that close the jar tightly and shake the jar for the seeds to become exposed and start infusing into the liquid. Remember to do every week or so.
- At the 8 week-mark, it can be used. In the initial weeks, you will smell the strong alcohol aroma, but once it is ready to be used, the vanilla aroma will be what hits you first as the alcohol aroma becomes less pungent.
- You can leave longer than 8 weeks and in fact the extract will stay good for up to 10 years. Longer it's left, the stronger the vanilla taste will be, however it won't keep imparting flavour indefinitely.
- Use just as you would normally or how your recipe calls for it. You can decant into smaller jars if you want or give out as gifts.
- You can leave the pods and the seeds in the liquid. You can use from the jar and top up with a little alcohol as you go and even periodically add new pods to it. This is how some people have extract that has been going for many years. I suggest however, decanting some extract into a smaller bottle for your regular use, so that when the original jar is nearly finished, you can top that up and make more. Alternatively, dry the used pods and make vanilla sugar.
Type Of Vanilla Pods To Buy – Grade A or Grade B, (B sometimes also being referred to as extract quality and Grade A for direct cooking). Madagascan, Bourbon, Tahitian, Mexican or from Papua New Guinea, (similar to Tahitian).
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DIFFICULTY LEVEL : easy, beginner
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