Friday, February 22, 2013

Va-Va-Va-Vanilla Extract!

I purchased some Mexican Vanilla Extract from a friend several years ago.  It was completely authentic and easily the BEST Vanilla Extract I have ever tasted.  I savored it.  I used it in everything.  I loved using a teaspoon here and a tablespoon there.  Then, my friend moved away, several states away.  My source for this excellent extract dried up.  The label on the bottle was in Spanish and didn't have an address  so I was at a loss to get more.  I tried a local Mexican market, but unfortunately, all I could find was a "Mexican Vanilla Blend."  Blend?  Huh?  This is unacceptable.  It contained Mexican vanilla, yes, but it also contains an artificial vanilla flavoring - vanillin.  YUUUUUCK!  Nope, that is not for me.  Martha Stewart drilled into my head as a young baker that only pure vanilla extract was good enough to put into my creations. 

What was I to do?  My stores of outstanding vanilla were dwindling, and while I can buy "Pure Vanilla Extract" at my local grocery store, it simply isn't the same as the robustly flavored vanilla extract to which I and my baked goods have become accustomed.  I was just about to get desperate and make a run for the border when I came across THIS.  Kelsey Nixon (remember her from The Next Food Network Star) gives a great, EASY recipe for making your own vanilla extract.  There isn't even any cooking involved!  SAY WHAT?!?  I can make my own vanilla extract!?!  Well alrighty then,  let's get to it.  

To make vanilla extract Kelsey says you need three things...

1. Vanilla Beans
2. 80 proof Vodka
3. A glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid

That's it.  I can totally do that.  Let's get to it!


See -- Three things!
You want to use non-reactive glass bottles with tight fitting tops.  I got mine HERE and HERE.   









Kelsey Nixon used a smaller glass bottle (half the size of mine) and only five beans.  My bottles hold 1 liter of liquid so I am using 12 beans.

These are plump, moist, beautiful beans!  I cannot wait to get working!

 *There are three common varieties of vanilla beans: Mexican, Tahitian, and Madagascar.  Each type of beans has special qualities making each better suited to specific uses.  The Madagascar vanilla bean is the most common type of vanilla.  This is the type that is most often found in grocery store vanilla.  Tahitian vanilla is the most aromatic.  It is best used for things where the smell is the most important factor.  Mexican vanilla beans pack the most flavorful vanilla punch.  Click HERE for more information about vanilla beans.  MMMMM!  They are the beans for me!



Use a sharp knife.  Slice each bean down the center lengthwise.  Keep all of the tiny seeds inside the bean. 


This process smells so great!  Stick the sliced beans into the bottles.  If you use a smaller bottle, you may need to cut the beans in half the other direction too. 


Don't spend a lot of money on fancy vodka.  Don't get anything with a flavor.  The most important thing is the proof.  GET 80 PROOF!  By the way...I don't drink alcohol.  I've never purchased alcohol before.  Should I be offended that I wasn't even carded at Costco?  SIGH!  My 1.75 liter bottle at Costco was $13.99.  Ironically, it was across the isle from a Crystal Skull full of vodka for around $75.00.  Nope, I didn't get that.   That is a little too Indiana Jones for my taste.

Pour (use a funnel)

Glamor Shot!  Notice how clear the vodka is. 

SHAKE!

Side-by-Side after a good shake.
Store in a cool, dark place. 
Don't judge my cabinets.  :)  I'm just trying to keep it real!  Take  your bottles out once a week and give them a good shake.  In 6 to 8 weeks your extract will be ready to use!  Now you go make some extract!

This is how the liquid looks after one day of soaking. 


















This is what you have after 4 weeks of soaking.  


This is how the extract looks after 6 weeks...


The extract is really smelling more like vanilla and less like vodka.  Yummy!

I waited 8 weeks for maximum potency before I decanted my homemade extract.  Strain the extract through a coffee filter.  Leave the vanilla beans in the bottle.  Cover the beans with new vodka and make more extract.  Add a new bean every now and then.  You'll have new vanilla extract almost indefinitely!


Make sure your bottle is DRY!

Water will ruin your new extract.  Even one drop will destroy all of your patience and hard work.  I let my bottle dry for over a day and a half.  I even used a blow drier.  Blowing down the neck of the bottle was not very effective, but blowing the warm air onto the bottom of the bottle did a great job.  It warmed the glass and caused the small beads of water to evaporate.  It didn't effect the larger beads of water. 

New extract on the left, ready-to-use extract on the right!

I can't wait to try it!

I would love it if you became a follower of my blog.  You can find me HERE on Facebook and HERE on Pinterest!  Come follow all of the craziness!

You might find these other cooking posts at Greetings From the Asylum interesting...What do you think....

Hamburger Cookies make great treats for when it is your turn to bring the snacks to preschool.  I recreated the Orange Blossom Lemonade from my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant that is now a pancake place.  You could also try my recipe for Green Chili Shredded Beef.  It is for the crock pot so it is E-A-S-Y and DELICIOUS!

Thanks for visiting!









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