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Make your own vanilla extract!

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Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  happyfrog on 11/16/2010, 10:20 am

for those folks fortunate enough to live in climates where vanilla beans are grown, they probably already know this,

BUT

a couple months ago, on a canning board i'm a member of, some folks started talking about vanilla extract and how EASY it is to make.

And omgosh, it's true!

all you need to do is buy some vodka and/or rum (some folks like vodka, some like rum, some like the vodka infused with some rum). . . and 3 vanilla beans per bottle. just slice the beans and drop in. store in a dark cool place and shake the bottle every once in a while. in less than 2 months, you'll have vanilla extract.

i know. sounds too easy, right?

but it works!!!! i started some about 2 months ago and they're smelling SO GOOD!

cost me less than $30 for the liquor as well as the beans (i am a member of a coop so bought at wholesale the beans).

i do a LOT of baking and average anywhere from one ounce to 6 oz of vanilla extract used every week. the cheapest price i've ever found for vanilla extract (REAL) not imitation is $1/ounce. i currently have 2 1/2 liters of vanilla extract in the works. that's a lot of extract!

folks on the canning boards give this as a gift to those who bake. 'cause it's GOOD - really REALLY good! and now you know how cheap and easy it is to make. just takes some patience to get it ready for use.


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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  happyfrog on 11/16/2010, 10:22 am

has anyone figured out how to grow these kinds of plants outside of the typical area? i would LOVE to have some vanilla plants growing!!!!!

so i'm all ears on how, if you've figured it out. Smile just one or 2 plants would be sufficient.

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Make mine vanilla

Post  ander217 on 11/16/2010, 3:33 pm

Happyfrog, I've never grown vanilla, but with the high cost of vanilla beans your post intrigued me so I googled. This site had the most information I found:

http://www.essortment.com/home/gardenplantsgr_syjg.htm

They are a tropical orchid and the plant grows to around 25 ft before blooming. They do best when grown from a cutting which can be ordered online from tropical plant suppliers. Allow them to grow up and down a stake or other support. They must be hand-pollinated of course, when grown inside. They require humidity and indirect sunlight to grow well.

They appear to be fussy, but it does seem possible to grow one's own in non-tropical areas if you're up for it.

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  camprn on 11/16/2010, 4:00 pm

I make mine w/ rum, YUM!

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  LaFee on 11/16/2010, 4:17 pm

Vanilla orchids are VERY fussy -- I knew an orchid breeder in Florida who had been trying for YEARS to get his to bloom, and finally succeeded. Apparently it's a real feather in one's cap to get it to bear fruit.

(anything that's still fussy when grown in 90% humidity and near-tropical temperatures is fussy indeed.)

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  martha on 11/16/2010, 9:18 pm

my husband, the chef, has made some from vodka and some from rum. I don't know yet which one is better - but they both smell fabulous!

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  Lavender Debs on 11/17/2010, 9:19 am

The PNW is a long way from tropical. No way could I grow it. I buy my beans in bulk at the co-op in town. It works for me. I try to get enough to make a couple of pounds of Vanilla sugar too. Hope you find a way to grow your own frog!

Every few years I make a batch of Lavender-Vanilla extract. I give samples of it away in tiny blue bottles. I wish I could find an inexpensive source for purple bottles, but blue will have to do. For lavender-vanilla I like to use a nice sipping bourbon as the foundation. I may have to get imported vanilla beans, but at least the lavender is home-grown.

I think it was the barefoot contessa who 1st suggested that the vanilla beans that are left over from the extraction are wonderful in ice-cream. You split the leathery pod open and scrape the tiny seeds out with the dull edge of your knife. They can be added as is, to the machine in the same way that you would add strawberries. A nice Thanksgiving treat (about the time the extract is finished if I use fresh lavender).

A caterer friend of mine insists on using vodka for her extract. The clear alcohol is her signature that says it is homemade.

Deborah.... strangely in the mood to bake something

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  LaFee on 11/17/2010, 10:43 am

Debs, homemade vanilla extract will be brown, not clear.

Not sure how she gets hers to be be clear.

(I've been making my own from Bourbon vanilla pods and cheap vodka for a couple of years)

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  happyfrog on 11/17/2010, 11:13 am

vanilla sugar.. .yum!

my vanilla extract is turning a delightful amber color and the rum is turning a darker amber color.

and wow, do both of them ever smell just lovely.

i can't see how they could stay clear.

but i'm always eager to learn.


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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  outsideasy on 11/17/2010, 12:36 pm

Does the quality of the Vodka or Rum make a difference in the quality of the end result? In other words should I buy good Rum or inexpensive ?
Al

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  happyfrog on 11/17/2010, 1:01 pm

al - i was told it really didn't matter, BUT if you have the money, to buy 'better' liquor.

so i bought middle-top of the road vodka and rum. i had the liquor lady help me pick out since i'm not a drinker.

and what i personally came home with from tehliquor store is:

Kamchatka vodka 80 proof 1 liter (i bought 2 of these)

and

bacardi gold original premium crafted rum puerto rican rum 40% alcohol by volume 375 ml

hth

all i did was put 3 sliced vanilla beans in each bottle. i shake whenever i think about them - they live under my kitchen sink right now. Smile

i've been told it takes 2-3 months to 'make' vanilla extract.

i haven't decided if i'm blending or keeping them separate - but this way i have that option if i so choose. Smile


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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  middlemamma on 11/17/2010, 2:08 pm

I wonder how weird the look would be if you gave this as gifts...LOL

I like different things and I like coming up with different gift ideas. I was wondering how you could bottle it to make it mail-able. My sister who bakes would think it was cool....and if I got on the ball early enough next year I could make 15-20 gifts this way. A little Vanilla and a cool cookie recipe or something.

I'll have to look and see where I could find some cute bottles to put it in.

Thanks for this info HappyFrog, I would have never known it was this easy. Smile

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  happyfrog on 11/17/2010, 4:19 pm

jennie - i was surprised too at the simplicity! and now that i know, i won't be buying anymore 'ready made' vanilla extract - i will always have a bottle 'in the making' so i'll be prepared.

i have a family with many severe, life threatening food allergies, so as a result, i have gotten quite adept with baking and cooking (man i love that digital meat thermometer that beeps when it's 10*F less than you want the meat - another thing i learned was meat continues cooking another 10*F after you remove it from heat so now i have perfect food that's not overdone. .. *grin*) sorry about tangent

anyways, because of the allergies, i've become very aware of ingredients in products. and because of my health 'issues' i've learned that cooking with 'real' ingredients is actually HEALTHIER than cooking with 'fake' - margarine, alternate sweeteners, etc. all my medical professionals tell me repeatedly that soy and aspartame and those other sweeteners, along with 'spreads' and margarine are terrible carcinogens. . . our bodies process 'real' ingredients so much better.

so on doctor's orders, i bake with real butter and sugar and cream and well, you get the idea.

i'd rather folks had a small serving - one or two bites of something and feel satiated instead of an entire plate of something that just didn't 'hit the spot'.

and once you go homemade, it's real hard to settle for storebought chemically treated shelf stable food.

gosh i sure went off on a tangent!

i am just real passionate about food and the source - which is why square foot gardening totally ROCKS!!! we have such control over what we eat! Smile

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  happyfrog on 11/17/2010, 4:21 pm

as for 'weird' gifts - i think that if you choose the recipients carefully, they will LOVE this gift - esp if they're bakers. the folks who love to buy prepackaged cookies from the grocery are probably not your intended demographic, lol. but i can think of 25 friends off the top of my head who would just JUMP at the opportunity to have homemade vanilla extract that is made in a peanut free/tree nut free household.

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  Lavender Debs on 11/17/2010, 7:18 pm

@LaFee wrote:Debs, homemade vanilla extract will be brown, not clear.

Not sure how she gets hers to be be clear.

(I've been making my own from Bourbon vanilla pods and cheap vodka for a couple of years)
I have no idea what to say to that. I make mine from bourbon. Clear is just what she tells us. Thanks for calling me on that L.

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  middlemamma on 11/17/2010, 7:38 pm

Embarassed

Missed your post altogether Lavender...see now that you give it as gifts, that is great! Where do you get blue bottles?

How do you make vanilla sugar?

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  Lavender Debs on 11/18/2010, 9:51 am

@middlemamma wrote: Where do you get blue bottles?
The hippy store (food co-op) has supplies for herbalists who make their own tinctures. They have two sizes of both brown (traditional vanilla bottle style) and blue bottles that you can buy with either a screw top lid for or a screw on dropper lid (for measuring drops of herbal extracts)

How do you make vanilla sugar?
Vanilla beans (as fresh as I can get) split open and cut into chunks, added to about 2 pounds of sugar. I dump everything into a gallon size zip-lock bag, shake it up and put it aside for a couple of months. The sugar takes on the essence of the vanilla. A little bit in a small pretty jar (I save them all year but small canning jars are probably fine) with a pretty, hand-made label for the lid (or a cloth cover with a ribbon to hold the cover on and a tag added to the ribbon) make good gifts too. I've also made lavender sugar (awesome in apple pie) and lemon sugar (with lemon zest, nice in tea or on sugar cookies). I have been thinking about harvesting a few mint flowers next summer and seeing what kind of sugar they make.

Deborah... who isn't very sweet and thinks her gifts will make up for that shortcoming.

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How many pods?

Post  ander217 on 11/18/2010, 9:57 am

How many beans do you use per ounce of alcohol?

Three months ago I tried to make vanilla for the first time. I split two vanilla beans and put them in 3 oz. of vodka. It is still really weak.

Do you use the cheaper beans from the grocery store produce or spice section, or do you recommend paying the astronomical prices for the premium beans? If so, which ones are best?


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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  Lavender Debs on 11/18/2010, 10:06 am

Oh, ander, that's too bad!

I use a pint of alcohol to two or three beans. I want the beans to be as fresh as I can get. The fresher they are the softer they seem to be. Often it seems that cheaper is fresher. The bean should have a strong vanilla scent to it.

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Wrong size

Post  ander217 on 11/18/2010, 10:22 am

Thanks, Deb. After reading your post I remembered that I poured a pint of vodka in my bottle, too. I went back and looked again and realized when I looked at the bottle before instead of it holding 3 oz., it said "net weight .3 oz." Should have put on my glasses. It was referring to the weight of the empty bottle, I think.

I purchased a vanilla-making kit from Tuesday morning which included the empty bottle and some vanilla beans. At the time I purchased it solely for the beans which were a bargain at the sale price. I still had one bean left when I decided to actually use the bottle for its intended purpose, and I purchased another bean from the produce section at the grocery store.

But I'm still confused. Are you saying I didn't use enough beans, or that my beans weren't fresh enough? Or both?

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  Lavender Debs on 11/18/2010, 6:30 pm

I'm saying that I don't know what happened. My first pint didn't seem to have the wow factor that I kept hearing about either. I just kept trying.

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  LaFee on 11/19/2010, 12:48 am

In the US, I found the best price for vanilla beans was from Penzey's, a spice company. You can find them at www.penzeys.com.

Ander, I think I'd throw in another vanilla bean - and put the bean itself in there, too - lots of flavor there. I use about 2-1/2 beans to a pint of cheap vodka, but I'm wondering if maybe your beans might have seen better days. That's not a knock on you -- but gift sets aren't always high-quality ingredients, and by the time your set made its way through regular distribution and then found its way to Tuesday Morning, the oils might have been gone.

The good news is, you can't ruin it -- I think if you add a little more "oomph" to the vanilla, you'll be in good shape.

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  happyfrog on 11/19/2010, 5:35 am

i'm using bourbon beans. and they're fresh. bought them from coop for 28cents each plus shipping. it's less than 2 months and i have over 2 liters of vanilla extract.

i put 3 beans in each bottle and sliced the bean sort of in half - like a hot dog bun. and i shake the bottles regularly.

they smell lovely.

the beans themselves were long and black and had a VERY strong smell - actually smelled more like apricot to me than vanilla when i got them. it was just a very strong yummy smell.

the vodka and rum i'm using as base now smell like the bottles of vanilla extract you buy in the store so i'm obviously on the right path.

it's really REALLY easy to do. next time this particular coop does a vanilla buy again, i'll let you all know if you'd like. i only bought 10 beans and another friend went in with me and bought a couple dozen - neither of us had ever made these things before and we wanted to test it out in small size first before ordering a lot more.

oh, for a gift for a special friend (and fellow guinea pig, *grin*) on this extract making, i took a canning jar, poured 6 ounces of vodka in, 2 ounces oz of rum and one vanilla bean sliced. put it in, shook it up and gave it to her to continue the process in a cool dry dark place. hers is ready she says - but it's also much stronger 'cause of the ratio. so it would be really easy to make a bunch of gifts inminutes. and it looks reallly cool to have the vanilla bean pods in the liquor along with hte vanilla seeds falling everywhere.

and you can reuse those beans into sugar, etc - then that would be the lifecycle.

so pretty cheap really. but ooh, so awesome!

the dark bottles is apparently to prevent oxidation if i understand the process correctly.

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

Post  LaFee on 11/19/2010, 6:37 am

When I make mine, I split the beans and scrape out all the little seeds into the vodka - this speeds up the extraction process quite a bit.

I also have friends who buy vanilla beans, chop them roughly, and bury one bean in a one-pound bag of coffee (ground or just beans, either way). Cheap vanilla coffee in about 2 weeks.

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Vanilla beans

Post  ander217 on 11/19/2010, 7:58 am

Happyfrog, what are bourbon beans? The natural foods store I use stopped carrying vanilla beans but they will order them. However, when I checked on ordering some they wanted anywhere from $7 to $12 per bean, depending on which country they came from. Are bourbon beans a variety of vanilla beans? If so, please let me know when you can buy them again.

Thanks for the advice, Deb and LaFee. I'll add another bean or two to my current bottle and see if it strengthens over the next few weeks. I doubt that any beans I buy in this area are fresh so I should probably add more than usual.

The bottle that came in my kit is clear. Is that a problem?

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Re: Make your own vanilla extract!

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