Who knew making vanilla extract was so easy? I certainly didn’t! As an occasional baker, a lover of cookies, pancakes and all things sweet, I keep a bottle of extract in my pantry for occasional flavor enhancement. Little did I know that vanilla could be used in more than just for baking.
My recent visit to the Hawaiian Vanilla Company taught me a few fun uses for vanilla for my home cooking and gave me a little education on the flower and bean.
Did you know?
The vanilla orchid has to be pollinated by hand? Bees can’t see the plant cause it’s green. There’s a “pollinator,” a dude who goes out to hand pollinate the flower within 12 hours of it opening so that it can grow the bean. Once planted, the flower takes 4-5 years to reach full growth and 8-weeks to fertilize and make a bean once pollinated. For a vanilla farmer, patience is a virtue.
In making the extract, you’ll also need some patience, but not too much…
Once you make your own extract at home, you’ll never go back to expensive store bought extract again. All you need is a few quality premium grade beans and some bottom shelf liqour and TIME. Making extract is a set-it-and-forget-it type of recipe, as the minimum digestion time is about 6-8 months. Have patience and have fun with it. Play around with different beans or liquors to get a different flavor.
It’s worth the wait, and you’ll get to keep your extract for as long as you like. It never goes bad and the flavor only improves with time. Just skim off the top the portion you are going to bake/cook with and seal it back up for later use.
Vanilla Bean Extract
(recipe courtesy of the Hawaiian Vanilla Company)
-Jar or Bottle with a airtight seal
-Vanilla Beans in your favorite variety (rule of thumb is 4-5 beans per 1 cup of alcohol)
-A neutral spirit like Everclear works best or if you want a “flavor” use a Bourbon, Rum or Brandy
1. Use a knife to split the beans in half, leave about ½ inch at each end intact
2. Put your vanilla beans in your glass bottle or jar and submerge in vodka. (I only used about 4 oz since I had just one bean to start).
3. Close jar or bottle and store in a cool, dry place for at least 8 months (it will last forever!). Give the bottle a shake every week or so.
Once it’s done, it’ll be flavorful and dark in color. You can then start to use it and just skim off the top and add in more liquor to replace what you have used.
Now… store in a cool, dry place, and wait…
…after about 8 weeks…
…after about 8 months!
BYB Tip: Add a bean or two every now and then, and refill with liquor to keep the beans covered for preservation. It will last you a long time! These DIY kits make for great holiday gifts!