As I love to bake and use vanilla extract to flavour my goodies with, I thought I'd make my own. This will last for years and is great for gifts too. The only downside is the long wait before you can use it, but I don't mind as it will be worth it. :) Give it a go.
Good quality vanilla pods( I use the Madagascar vanilla pods) Make sure they aren't dried out or you won't get a good flavour.
1 bottle of Vodka ( I used a 70cl bottle of Smirnoff) The vodka doesn't have to be an expensive brand as the vanilla will eventually take over the flavour. But having said this it has to be at least 40-80 % alcohol.
As rule of thumb you have to use 5 vanilla beans per 1 cup.
A 70cl bottle has 3 cups of Vodka so from my pack of of 20 vanilla beans I used 15 pods.
Pour 1 cup of vodka into a cup and set aside until later.
Cut the tips of each bean and pop it into the bottle of vodka. Some people throw these away but I didn't waste anything :).
Using a sharp knife carefully slice the bean length ways but not all the way up so that it's split into two.
Look at that wonderful caviar inside the bean :) mmmmmmm.
Carefully scrape out the goodness and very carefully pop it into the bottle of vodka.
Cut the pod into 3 pieces and pop it in the bottle.
Continue this process until all 15 beans are used up.
Now remember that 1 cup of vodka that you set aside earlier? Now it's time to add it back into the bottle . You may not be able to fit it all in but not to worry, you can have a drink later ;).
Now give the bottle a good shake and place it in a cool dark cupboard.
Shake the bottle at least once a week or whenever you're getting something from the cupboard. (or if you're as excited as me every few hrs lol)
To appreciate the full flavour of the vanilla extract it will take 6 months to mature and the colour will darken nicely. However you can start using it after 4 weeks but it won't be as flavourful.
I made mine on the 26th of April so it will be ready by 26th October. Ready for Christmas baking and bottling up as gifts.
As you bottle up the end product and your extract is running low, all you need to do is top it up with vodka. This will last you for years. You can also add more vanilla beans to it.
As I had 5 vanilla beans left over I decided to pack them in a jar of granulated sugar, this will not only preserve the vanilla pods to use later but you will also get some yummy vanilla sugar to use in baking and your favourite drinks.
When packing in the sugar DO NOT remove the caviar, just leave the beans in whole.You won't get any flavour in the sugar if it's removed.
If you are storing the Beans on their own, wrap them whole in either cling film or kitchen foil with no air inside. Then place into an air tight jar and leave in a cool dark place.
Once a week take the the vanilla pods out of the jar and the wrapping and leave them out for 10 minutes to let the air circulate around them and then re wrap them and put back into the jar. Repeat this until the beans are used up.
Never place vanilla pods in the fridge, this causes mold to grow on them.
Sometimes you may see some white crystallization on the tips of the beans, don't worry it's just the vanilla paste seeping through and turning hard. You will know straight away if it is mold. If you find a mold bean remove it straight away as it will spread to the other beans.
I hope this recipe was useful to you :)
Happy baking and remember be patient, you won't regret it.