How to Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

Making your own extracts and bitters is way easier than you think. It only takes two ingredients to make a delicious vanilla extract that you can use in all your favorite baked goods. Check out this fantastic recipe for how to make your own vanilla extract from Infusing Flavors!

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You can use alcohol other than vodka as your infusion base. I’ve tried rum and brandy, both of which impart a light caramel flavor to the vanilla. Makes 1 cup

5 to 7 vanilla beans
1 cup 80-proof vodka

  • To get the most flavor from your extract, split the vanilla beans lengthwise and place them in a small, sterile jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. It’s important that the vanilla beans remain completely submerged in the vodka, so you may need to cut the vanilla beans into smaller sections.
  • Add the vodka. Close the lid securely and shake gently to blend. Place your jar in a cool,dark location for 8 weeks. Shake the jar every few days, always making sure the beans are fully submerged. You can use a spoon to push them under the vodka if they pop up.At the end of the 8 weeks, remove the vanilla beans. Place them on a piece of paper towel and set aside to dry. You can use the beans for vanilla sugar (see Erin’s Tip).
  • You’ll notice some vanilla seeds in the liquid that have come loose from the pods. If you’d like, you can filter out the seeds by pouring the extract through a fine-mesh sieve lined with 3 or 4 layers of cheesecloth, but it certainly isn’t necessary.
  • Your vanilla is ready to use and will keep for up to 1 year if stored properly. I suggest storing all extracts in an airtight dark bottle or, at the very least, in a dark cupboard. Storing under darkened conditions can help to keep the essential oils in the extract from dissipating in sunlight.

Erin’s Tip: Once the vanilla beans have dried, you can use them to make vanilla sugar. (My husband loves vanilla sugar in his morning coffee.) After a couple of hours or so of drying, place the vanilla beans in a canister with 3 to 4 cups of sugar. Seal the canister and allow the vanilla beans to perfume the sugar for 1 to 2 weeks. For even more vanilla flavor, you can grind the dried vanilla beans in a food processor with ½ cup of sugar until they are pulverized. Then mix the ground vanilla beans and sugar with the remaining 2½ to 3½ cups of sugar, and seal in a canister to retain the freshness.

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Vanilla Beans Terroir
You know the saying, “That’s so vanilla”? It’s kind of a slam, right? Like, that is so plain, everyday, boring. Well, whoever came up with that saying didn’t know beans about vanilla! While researching this book I came across the coolest website called Beanilla (see Resources, page 172), which offers vanilla beans from around the world— each with unique flavor characteristics.

You may have heard of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, which is noted for its dark, almost buttery sweetness, or Tahitian vanilla with chocolatey, caramel flavors, but how about vanilla beans from Uganda or Tonga or Mexico? Vanilla is as varied as wine; its character is influenced by its terroir (the characteristics of where it’s grown). I suggest experimenting—make some single varietals or try custom blends. Maybe you’d like a vanilla that’s earthy with milk chocolate undertones. How about one that’s fruity with dark-cherry or wine notes? Perhaps you’d prefer something a little smoky?

Think of how special a gift of homemade vanilla extract would be with a note about the type of vanilla beans you chose, and why. Include a recipe that highlights the flavor of your extract for the perfect extra touch.

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Infusing Flavors Intense Infusions for Food and Drink - Recipes for Oils - Vinegars - Sauces - Bitters - Waters - and MoreReady to escape “vanilla” ho-hum recipes, embrace your culinary creativity, and taste something new? Yeah, we thought so. Pick up this cookbook–your ticket to a world of flavor.

Infusing Flavors features recipes to infuse mind-blowing flavors into teas, tisanes, bitters, liqueurs, aguas frescas, waters, vinegars, oils, gastriques, shrubs, ice creams, soft drinks, and more. Each section in the book is packed with unique recipes. You’ll learn which herbs, fruits, flowers, vegetables, and even seeds can be prepared and infused into all-natural food and drink recipes. With its emphasis on flavor infusions that stretch beyond your standard cocktail bitters, this book is a special treat for any food lover.