Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vanilla

For years now I have wanted to make my own vanilla. The cost always prevented me. I couldn't justify paying $8 to $10 in the grocery store for two vanilla beans when you needs lots more to make good extract. But then I discovered the beauty of online vanilla bean dealers. You can get a lot more for your money. I'm not exactly a vanilla bean expert, but I think the ones I got were pretty good. Their flavor seems a bit on the mild side, and it took 4 or 5 beans to get a batch of frosting flavored the way I wanted it, but I paid the same amount for 1 1/4 lbs of beans that I would pay in the grocery store for 6 beans.

So I ordered my beans, but to make the extract you need vodka. I sent Ryan to the liquor store on a Friday night to buy me vodka. We learned that Friday night is not the night to visit the liquor store if you are new at this whole buying liquor thing. We aren't exactly heavy drinkers around here, and the liquor store is packed on Friday nights. He made it home with 1.75 liters of vodka. We were just going to get a pint, but I have a lot of vanilla beans to use.

Here are my beans when they arrived. I bought 1 lb of Madagascar beans and got 1/4 lb of Tahitian beans for free.
The spoils of Ryan's visit to the liquor store.
If you have used vanilla beans before, you know they are strange little suckers.
To get to the good part, you slice them open and scrape out the guts or caviar.

This is about how many beans I put in 3 cups of vodka. I sliced each bean open and then cut them in half.
We're experimenting with flavors. I am making 1 cup of extract with the Tahitian beans, 1 cup with a mixture of beans, and the remainder with the Madagascar beans.
The are many different sites devoted to vanilla making which recommended anywhere from 6 beans per pint to 30. I used lots of beans because I want a very strong extract. Besides, there are only so many things you can do with vanilla beans, and I have lots of beans. They only last about a year.
This is the color of the alcohol after one day. We did this about a week ago, and the alcohol is almost black now.
These guys are hanging out in our storage room right now. They need a cool, dark place for the best results. I shake each jar once a day to help with the extraction process. It will take 4-6 months for full flavor--just in time for Christmas presents. I even found great little amber colored 2 oz and 4 oz bottles to put this in when it's ready. Now I just have to make a label.