Sunday, November 26, 2006

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I came across this recipe to make your own vanilla extract, from alcohol and vanilla beans, and of course wanted to try it right away. It is very simple to make, the hard part is waiting the six months for it to be fully mature, to have extracted the maximum goodness out of the vanilla beans. This makes a good gift for a foodie, you can make up fancy bottles, the one I used is a Tuscany bottle. Look for vanilla beans that are flexible but not brittle, and slightly oily to the touch. There are two types of vanilla beans that I have seen, the more popular, and less expensive variety of the two that I saw, is Bourbon, while the more expensive version is Tahitian. The best bourbon beans have a white "frost" of pure vanillin on the outside (this looks crystalline in direct light, while if it is mildew, it will look dull). These bourbon vanilla beans were imported from Germany, though they likely were not grown there.

Split four to six vanilla beans in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. Add to the vanilla beans in the bottle 375 mL of vodka, or any grain alcohol. Store at room temperature in a dark place for at least two months, six months preferably. As you use the vanilla extract, you can top up the bottle with fresh alcohol.

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