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The make-your-own vanilla extract experiment


Fat Guy
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I just bottled my first batch after 10 months in the beans, and added a bit of simple syrup to prevent the aforementioned curdling. The vanilla extract is *very* dark with a strong vanilla scent. I used a lot of beans! But since I did, I figured they'd be good for another go-round, and refilled the bottles to hide in the back of the cupboard until Christmas, when they should be good for gift giving!

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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  • 3 weeks later...

A year ago, when I first spotted this thread, I started 2 batches of vanilla extract. One with vodka, one with brandy. For the first 4 to 5 months I shook it religiously atleast once a week, BUT for the last many months I have hardly thought of it. So.....should I now strain the cut beans out of the very aromatic fluids or just leave it as it is?

I do think I need to use some of this stuff!!!!!

Will take some time this weekend to read the entire thread to get ideas.

Donna

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  • 1 month later...

After a massive delay caused by some nasty fraud to my paypal account, I am finally in posession of more vanilla beans than one girl should have!

I was too lazy to read the whole thread over, and also excited to get started, so I just jumped in. Given the quantity of my beans, I wasn't stingy when adding them to the bottle! I'm now pretty certain I used WAY more beans than I'll need to produce a quality extract; I chopped up (but didn't split - see above comment re: my laziness) the beans and added them to a 1.14L bottle of cheap vodka.

I now have a few questions / observations: (I'm pretty sure most / all of these are addressed above in the thread, so feel free to tell me to just reread!)

1) I know that several purveyors offer double strength vanilla. Is this produced simply by infusing double the number of beans for the same amount of time?

2) My original thinking was more beans = more flavour. Is there a maximum amount of flavour that vodka can absorb? Also, if I did indeed use too many beans, should I add more vodka to the infusion once it is useable? I would assume that adding more beans may be in order too... I realize that I should have some time ahead of me before worrying about such things, however

3) I do recall several other 'extract engineers' saying that their mixture took a while to colour and to begin smelling, for lack of a better word, vanilla-ey. Mine has been infusing for almost 2 weeks, and is already a dark brown (darker than dark beer, with lots of seeds floating around) and smells very vanilla-ey. I'm pretty sure that my jacked up bean count, as well as cutting the beans is responsible for this.

I appreciate any info more experieced infusers have to offer here.

Special thanks to Steven for starting all this, and for the great source!

Cheers!

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True, "double-strength" vanilla can only be achieved with a distillation apparatus, it involves distilling the vanilla extract.

Frankly, I do not believe the results are worth the expense and effort of doing this at home - unless you are something of a fanatic and love to fool around with strange and tricky gadgets.

I have a tiny "still" for experimental purposes, however I am an unabashed tinkerer and love odd gadgets and such...

The only flavored extract that turned out to be worth the trouble was the one made from espresso. The vanilla was somewhat bitter.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
True, "double-strength" vanilla can only be achieved with a distillation apparatus, it involves distilling the vanilla extract. 

I'm not sure about that. I found a technical paper online about vanill extract manufacturing, and if I remember right the difference between single and double strength was purely the quantity of beans (by weight) to liquid.

I'll see if I can find that anywhere. At any rate, I remember the standard for double strength being a huge amount of vanilla ... much more than what I have going on in the pantry.

Notes from the underbelly

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One article that I found stated that either distillation OR extraction with pure grain alcohol would produce the product labeled "double-strength" vanilla.

Since straight grain alcohol, 190 proof, is available only for laboratory and manufacturing use and requires a federal permit, it is really not something that can be produced in the home.

(Unless you are cooking up your own!!!)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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This thread peaked my interest last year and I decided to give making my own extract a go. It seems that using Vodka or Everclear is the way that most people were doing it so I decided to go the opposite direction: Maker's Mark.

I ordered some beans from my usual folks on eBay, restocked my Bourbon supply and got to "vanilla-ing".

Flash forward ten months and I have a Mason jar of dark, vanilla goodness hibernating in the back of my pantry.

As odd as it sounds, I think I'm going to give Tequila a shot next.

Gear nerd and hash slinger

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190 proof might be illegal in California, but not in Louisiana.  I can buy a bottle of 190 proof Everclear at my local Winn-Dixie, Wal-Mart, liquor store, or convenience store.

I stand corrected. It cannot be sold in quite a few states but is available in others.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 3 months later...

Inspired by this thread, I started my jar last January 10th. The vanilla beans, a lot of them, have been soaking in the vodka for almost 8 months. I finally tested it this morning by stirring a teaspoon of it into a small glass of milk. It has a lovely flavor. In fact, I may have to mix a little of it in with my milk forevermore.

So what should I do now? There was some talk earlier about mixing it with simple syrup or agave syrup. (It just so happens that I now have a small bottle of agave syrup.) The problem is that I have absolutely no understanding of what the ratio of syrup to the vanilla should be.

Should I strain what ever I pour off through a coffee filter? I can't say that I really mind the little black grainy things, but maybe others might.

I would like to share some of this lovely liquid with my daughter & daughter-in-laws, so I want to make sure that I'm doing it right.

Any advice would be most sincerely appreciated.

pat

I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance

Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.

-- Ogden Nash

http://bluestembooks.com/

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I started my 3.5 liter jug of Madagascar vanilla bean-infused Svedka vodka on September 3, 2007. As of a couple of months ago, I started using it exclusively, sans simple syrup. Since I used a ton of vanilla beans, the resulting extract, by now, is quite rich, almost viscous. It doesn't seem to miss the added syrup at all. I love this stuff! It's so much smoother and sweeter tasting than it was just six months into the process. I bake constantly, and I make a lot of ice cream, so it gets used up pretty quickly. I've already made a bit of a dent in the reserves, so much so that I think I'll start another bottle soon. This will probably become an annual event.

For the record, I've kept the beans in the bottle and just poured off a bit at a time into a smaller vessel. I like the idea that it keeps improving with age.

Edited by abooja (log)
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I keep two 750 ml wine bottles filled with the beans and alcohol. After 6 months or so, I poured off the two bottles into an empty third (the contents fit due to the displacement from the beans). Then more alcohol into the first two, where it will sit until the third is empty, and the process repeats!

I think the most valuable lesson I learned was using the simple syrup or or adding it to eggs first to keep the alcohol from curdling a cream or milk. (The curdling might not happen for everyone, but it seems to with my batch.) Otherwise, I use it straight from the bottle. I love this stuff.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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I use Everclear as the alcohol because, years ago, when I started making perfumes, I discovered that some herbs/flowers did not fully give off their oils in vodka. I often ran into weird situations with small beads of oil in the bottom of the vodka jar instead of everything infused throughout.

I have always had good results with Everclear, it seems to really pull the flavor out of whatever item I am making extract from. (try to use the best ingredients you can find!)

Sure, it lacks additional flavors, and it has a bit of a harsh mouthfeel, but I tend to use my extracts as ingredients where it does not matter.

If one were to add simple syrup (or gum syrup) in equal amount to the extract, one would have a liqueur. -And the vanilla version tastes like what you always wanted the vanilla bottle to taste like when you were a kid.

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I just wanted to mention that Vanilla Products, USA is featuring an End of Summer special -- in their eBay store only, apparently. I guess I didn't read through the posting very well because I was more than a bit surprised to have received a full FREE pound of grade B Tahitian vanilla beans with my pound of grade A Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans. Had my base order been more than $50, the free beans would have been grade A Tahitian beans. Such a deal!

Now, what to do with all these beans. I'm not sure if I should make a blend or two single-bean vanillas. Nice problem to have! :cool:

Edited for clarity.

Edited by abooja (log)
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I use Everclear as the alcohol because, years ago, when I started making perfumes, I discovered that some herbs/flowers did not fully give off their oils in vodka. I often ran into weird situations with small beads of oil in the bottom of the vodka jar instead of everything infused throughout.

I have always had good results with Everclear, it seems to really pull the flavor out of whatever item I am making extract from. (try to use the best ingredients you can find!)

Sure, it lacks additional flavors, and it has a bit of a harsh mouthfeel, but I tend to use my extracts as ingredients where it does not matter.

If one were to add simple syrup (or gum syrup) in equal amount to the extract, one would have a liqueur. -And the vanilla version tastes like what you always wanted the vanilla bottle to taste like when you were a kid.

I agree.

I start with Everclear and after a significant amount of extraction, I top up the jar with brandy.

I have found that starting with the higher alcohol content extracts more flavor and speeds up the process considerably.

I think I mentioned this in a post much earlier in this thread and posted a link to an article that explained the mechanics of the extraction process.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well I just started my first batch. I have a 1 litre bottle of blue label 100 proof smirnoff that my friends got me duty free on their way back from canada at roughly a quarter of the off the shelf price here in australia. So, after taking it out of the deep freezer and *ahem* making room in the bottle for the beans, I added 20 bourbon. The first 5 I split, scraped and chopped into 1" pieces, because I wanted to get a lot of loose seeds. I love the look of the seeds in whatever I cook with real vanilla. The next 12 I split and chopped, then the last 3 I just split, to get that nice "war of the worlds" look if you look in the side if the bottle. After about 2 hours and several good shakes, it's already honey brown, kind of the color of fresh 20w50 motor oil and has a noticeable vanilla smell amongst the vodka aromas. I will keep it wrapped to keep the light out and probably shake it every day till it's good. There is a veritable storm of seeds inside when I give it a good shake.

So, after 1 and a half years of this thread, how are the original batches going from the beginning?

"Alternatively, marry a good man or woman, have plenty of children, and train them to do it while you drink a glass of wine and grow a moustache." -Moby Pomerance

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I've been using my two bottles for many months now. The Tahitian is definitely more flowery, the bourbon more caramelly, so I tend to use the Tahitian more in berry desserts and the bourbon in chocolate or, say, apple desserts. I'm sure you could do a taste test with side-by-side batches of creme anglaise, but in most of what I bake, I think you would have to focus really hard when you were tasting the final products to notice the difference. I never did strain either bottle or add sweetener. It's interesting to me that you really can smell "sweet," so that when I hold the bottle to my nose, my vanilla smells quite different from storebought. I don't miss the sugar when I use the vanilla as an ingredient, though. I'm about to start a new batch with Everclear; we'll see about the difference. It really is fun to watch and smell the development of the extract.

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Last week I finally managed to find a reasonably good source for vanilla (which is not at all easy, here in the Netherlands :shock: ). I am about to start my first batch but I have a very dumb question. Throughout the thread I kept on noticing that people decant whatever spirits they’re using from the original bottle into another vessel. Why? Do I need to do this (and if so, what's the reason?) or will I be fine just taking a swig or two from the bottle and stuffing my pods in?

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After about 50 hours, it's already the color of dark rum. It has a very pronounced vanilla smell but still has a strong vodka aroma. I can only imagine what 6 months will do to it. There is a lot of floaty bits in it, which look like a woody kind of fibre distinctly different from the seeds, which I assume came from the inside of the beans. But I've had these before, when I've shoved a couple of split beans into a bottle of captain morgans spiced rum for flavour and I could never detect them when consuming said rum so not really much of a concern.

"Alternatively, marry a good man or woman, have plenty of children, and train them to do it while you drink a glass of wine and grow a moustache." -Moby Pomerance

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I cleaned out my spice cabinet this weekend and found what was really a good package of Madagascar Penzey's vanilla beans. I probably have 6-8 whole beans, but they're dried out at least 2 years old. I thought if I steeped them then I could use them for vanilla. Will this work?

edited: typo

Edited by PopsicleToze (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...
Anyone know?

I can't see why it wouldn't...I bought a pound of extract quality beans, and they are what I would call 'dried out' and I use them for vanilla with great results. All you have to lose is a couple of cups of booze, which you could still drink if it doesn't work out :smile:

Don't try to win over the haters. You're not the jackass whisperer."

Scott Stratten

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  I thought if I steeped them then I could use them for vanilla.  Will this work?

Do you mean steep them right in the alcohol or in something (water?) first, then into the booze?

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