Try this: make your own vanilla extract
Good quality extracts are surprisingly pricey; and when a bottle only lasts a few bakes that can add up over time. Skip the high cost and all the synthetic ingredients when you make your own at home – it’s easier than you think!
Making your own vanilla extract takes just two ingredients – vanilla and vodka. The real secret is giving it enough time for the vanilla to infuse and the flavour to mature.
- – 5 Vanilla Pods
- – 8oz Vodka
- – A clean jar or bottle
How to do it:
- 1. Rinse your vanilla pods to make sure there is no residue on the outside of the pods. Run a knife lengthwise down the side of the pod to split it. You can leave the pods connected at either end for presentation, or if you can’t fit an entire pod into your jar, cut it into smaller pieces.
- 2. Place your pods in a jar and pour over the vodka. Make sure your pods are completely submerged – push them towards the bottom of the jar if necessary. Seal your jar and shake well.
- 3. Store your jar of vanilla pods in a cool, dark place to infuse. The back of the shelf in your kitchen cupboard works well. Leave your extract to infuse for at least a month, shaking it from time to time.
- 4. Once the fermenting period is over, you may want to transfer your extract to a new jar or remove the vanilla pods. Simple strain the extract into a different bottle – if you want a perfectly clear extract, strain through a coffee filter to remove the small flecks of seeds.
To make great extract you don’t need to buy the most expensive vodka in the shop, but try and avoid cheap, low quality vodkas, as they will upset the flavour. If you want to know if your vodka is good enough to use in your extract, just taste it – if the flavour is neutral then it will be fine.
You can experiment with the flavours of your extract by using other alcohols – mixing rum with vodka or replacing it altogether brings an even sweeter, softer flavour to your vanilla extract. American-style bourbon will also work well, too.
To make the vanilla flavour stronger, the simplest solution is to add more pods to your extract mixture. The longer you can leave it to mature, the better.
Give it as a gift
Homemade extract also makes an excellent gift – it’s thoughtful, inexpensive, and easy to make. Make a large batch and leave it to mature in your cupboard for as long as possible. Decant some of the extract into a smaller bottle – you could print off your own labels or decorate the bottle with ribbon.
If you want to use it as a gift but don’t have enough to time to let the extract mature, simply decant some into a decorative bottle and be sure to add a few extra pods with it to ensure it’s flavourful. Make a tag and tie it around the bottle with instructions about how to store and when it’ll be ready to use.
Once you know how to make vanilla extract, it’s easy to apply the same basic principle to other great flavours. Almond, coconut, citrus and peppermint are just a handful of other extracts you can make easily at home, and there are dozens of simple recipes on the web you can use as a guide.
So tell us, will you try your own extract?
Silversurfer's Assistant Editor
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