Sunday, January 13, 2013

Vanilla Extract

I recently ran out of vanilla extract during a baking spree- an untenable position. Luckily, I had purchased some whole vanilla beans from a spice shop in North Carolina the previous year. I didn't know what to do with the beans at the time, but figured they'd come into play eventually.

And it's a great way to use the mini gift bottles from a friends' wedding...

When you're an amateur, situations like this force you to learn about new ingredients, which is a great benefit in addition to my having plenty of extract now. I've never used a whole vanilla bean or its seeds in anything before, but now I feel informed enough to try. Meanwhile, here's the very easy process for making the extract.

Vanilla Extract from Whole Bean

  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 8 to 12 oz bourbon whisky
  • small glass bottle or jar

With a sharp knife, cut the vanilla bean lengthwise from one end to the other to expose the seeds. Fill your bottle with bourbon and submerge the bean completely. Let it sit for 4-5 days, gently shaking the bottle once a day.

This is one of those easily scalable processes, where you could fill a 1 liter bottle of bourbon (or any liquor that's at least 80 proof) and multiply the number of beans to make a giant supply of extract if you wanted to.

From doing this, I've also learned that if you make larger quantities, it's much cheaper to make your own than buying extract in the grocery store, and you can still use the beans for culinary purposes after the flavor has been extracted. Neat.

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