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Fat Guy

The make-your-own vanilla extract experiment

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A week ago, I chopped up some rather dried out beans and put them in Everclear to cover, as Andisenji suggests early in this thread. They seem to be infusing much more slowly that in my earlier attempts with vodka and fresher beans. This time, there is still little color in the liquid, and the beans rattle around when I shake the bottle. I don't know whether it's the very high alcohol content of the liquid or the state of the beans; I'm guessing it might be some combination. I'm going to add bourbon to the mixture and see what happens, although the color of the bourbon may make it hard to actually see what happens.

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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?

Precisely. I thought the hot alcohol would soften them up a bit. I just hate to throw them away.

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I'm thinking really dried out beans might be best ground up in a coffee grinder and mixed with sugar as vanilla sugar?

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Don't heat the Everclear, you will drive out some of the alcohol.

Strain the beans out of the liquid and put them in a mortar, if you have one, and mash them or mash them any way you can, then return the smashed beans to the Everclear cover tightly and leave it alone for at least three or four weeks. It is possible the beans have dried out too much but they will eventually give up some flavor.

I would suggest you order some new, fresh and plump beans and add them to the batch you have started.

If you have dried beans that have not yet been soaked, do NOT boil them. Put them in a steamer and steam them until they soften. This method will retain more of the essential oils.


"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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Fatal Flaw.

Laziness prevented me from stashing my, er, stash in a dark place. Procrastination too... bastards.

After 6 months it has a definite vanilla-ey flavour (the famous couple of drops in a bit of cream test) tho not terribly powerful. Unfortunately I don't have any store-bought vanilla on hand for a side-by-side.

Will report back soon with side-by-side results, but til then: does anyone have any scientific info about the effects of darkness?

Also, my product is dark in colour, but nothing like store-bought extract. Is this down to artificial colouring?

I'd been hoping to give batch #1 away as Xmas presents, so any help is appreciated!

Edited to add: If potency is less than derisable, is there anything that can be done to improve my extract by Christmas? (FYI, my vanilla is now in the safe hands of the boogeyman!)


Edited by rubyred (log)

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rubyred, I sadly have no advice to give you because I, too, am entirely new to this cooking adventure. In fact, I actually have some questions of my own.

I decided to embark on this vanilla journey last spring, but it took me until this month to order the beans. I've now been steeping my vanilla since Nov. 4th. I followed the proportions listed earlier in this thread (I believe it was 6-ish beans per cup of liquid), and sealed the vanilla into three mason jars filled with decent vodka.

I've been shaking the vanilla almost every day.

Here is what I'm wondering:

I realize this vanilla will likely not be ready for Christmas, as I'd planned. Would it be terribly uncouth of me to package up the vanilla regardless--filling small decorative bottles with the brew + a few whole beans--and pass them out to my nearest and dearest with the caveat: "You might want to wait a few months...."

Ideally, I am hoping that the vanilla will be quasi-useable by Christmas, as is, but will simply better with age.

1) Anything I can do to speed the process (sadly, no Everclear to be found in my neck of the woods)?

2) Is there any risk of giving away vanilla with beans still in it (I know they'll stop releasing oils after a certain point--but might they also start to rot/have unpleasant chemical effects)?

3) Why-oh-why am I such a procrastinator......?

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I have left the beans in two bottles of extract for over a year; no ill effects that I know of. Also, Penzey's vanilla extract comes with a bean in it.

Whether your friends and relations will have the patience to wait I don't know, but the extract will definitely be better after, say three months. One thing you might do is package the extract in opaque bottles, or at least wrap translucent bottles in heavy paper or cloth, so it will be easy for them to keep the brew in the dark.

How about a label that says Love Potion--Not to be used before Valentine's Day.

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Catherine Iino, your suggestion is absolutely adorable!

I must admit that my overdeveloped ability to procrastinate has to date inhibited me from testing my extract, as previously promised. Unfortunately, it was exacerbated by the fact that the site I planned to order bottles from (mentioned upthread) wanted to charge me $20 for shipping to Canada on my order of $13 or so. So sad.

I reckon I'll get my crap together this weekend (ish) and report back then.

Cheers, Vanilla Warriors!

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I certainly do not see anything wrong with giving someone a present of vanilla extract that is "in process" so to speak. Think as a futurist.

After all, most people will have some vanilla on hand which they should use up before trying yours - because once they try yours they won't want to use the other stuff!


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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That's actually what I plan to do as well. I'm going to do 2 bottles- one small and one larger. I plan to label them with the bean type(s) and alcohol type with a couple of beans cut up in the larger one, along with instructions to keep topping it off. I am hoping I used enough extra beans that it will be ready for use by the time the first folks run out of their current bottle.

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I don't know that the vodka I use for vanilla extract needs to be 100 % pure -- God know's I'm not. Eighty proof is good enough for me.(I'm thinking of burying half a pod in the depths of my lingerie drawer.)

Watching this stuff mature, shaking it up and eyeballing it daily for color changes will be more fun than a Chia pet.

I am new to e-G and could not stop laughing when I saw your post... are you talking about the vanilla extract or the lingerie??? :)


Tom Gengo

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At least in theory, water is a solvent too. In chemistry class they called it "the universal solvent."

FWIW, the true universal solvent is Dimethyl Sulfoxide, if you put a drop on your finger you can taste it at the same time- it passes through the cells of the body that quickly. In graduate school I disolved carcinogens that were not very soluble. Of course, I do not recommend it for vanilla.

Regarding water versus ethanol as solvents. The ethanol will solubilize the hydrophobic "water hating" elements. Both ethanol and water will extract the hydrophilic "water loving" elements.


Edited by Tom Gengo (log)

Tom Gengo

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Quick message on my vanilla. Think i've had it going in its little jar for going on a year now, very occasional use now that i don't have it with me day to day, but last time i saw it, it was a lovely gloopy syrup, much more heady and aromatic than the normal extract I was buying, awesome vanilla flavour. Thanks to the OP for the idea and all the guidance along the way, this idea is a keeper. Might try some different extractions next time.

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I am sort of in a similar position as some of the posters above. I found this thread over the summer, and started my extract in July. So, it has now been steeping in rum for five months. I think I have seen posters mention the 6 month mark as a point at which the vanilla gets "usable," so it seems like five months would not be that much of a stretch.

However, I am not sure what to expect this vanilla to look, smell, and taste like when it has reached a good point. The color is a bit lighter than the commercial vanilla that I have, and there is still a distinct alcohol flavor and scent to it. This last bit is what concerns me the most and yet, it seems counter-intuitive to use a (presumably/hopefully) inferior product as a benchmark.

Can anybody shed some light on what the vanilla will smell and taste like when it is ready? How would YOU feel if you received a five-month old batch of vanilla?

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Thank you for the encouragement. I'm feeling quite good about giving away my in-process vanilla. I bought some dark blue bottles, and I think it'll mature quite nicely in there.

And thank you, Catherine Iino, for the Valentine's day suggestion. That is very charming.

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I put about half of the pound of beans I bought into a large bottle of cheap vodka in January. It certainly went through the industrial smell stage Fat Guy mentioned but has now started the smell is very vanilla and pleasent.

I have been collecting different strengths of the same spirit and today started three small jars with rum and two chopped up beans each. I have one with Bacardi (40%), one with Wray and Nephew Overproof (75%) and the last is a sample of straight rum from a distillery in Jamaica that is directly from the still. Although it is unlabeled I can tell it is clearly stronger than the "overproof" bottle. It will be interesting to see if there are differences inthe final flavour, or the time it takes to get there or who knows what other differences.

What fun!

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My last batch was great, and definitely improved with age. Just put up 20 split and chopped beans in 2 cups of booze, half Tito's vodka and half Flor de Cana gold (using both up). Anyone else getting their batches started?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Thanks for the reminder, Chris -- I forgot to post that at the end of August I filled three canning jars:

- 12 oz Mount Gay rum & 6 Madagascar beans, chopped

- 12 oz Vodka & 6 Madagascar beans, chopped

- 8 oz Mount Gay rum & 6 Madagascar beans, chopped

Should I have put in more beans? I shared plenty of my stash of beans with some friends, who also packed up a bunch of jars with assorted booze.

And I have more beans left than I know what to do with! I guess I should get my hands on some more jars and booze and pack them up.

- L.

[edited to fix stupid typos]


Edited by Lapin d'Argent (log)

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Just started 2 pint jars of extract- 10 split beans in each, filled up with vodka. One jar has scraped beans, the other simply split beans. The beans smell less sweet and more smoky than I expected (ordered from Saffron and Vanilla)....I suspect it's because all extracts that I've used till now have has some sugar in the mix?

Taking some beans with me when I see family next weekend to share some extra.....while I'm there will look for some food grade glycerin to make a non-alcoholic batch for a family member who abstains for religious reasons.

Anyway, can't wait to see how things unfold over the next few months!

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My vanilla extract is astonishing right now. Following a drink with Avery and Janet Glasser of Bittermens bitters a while back, I started shaking all of my infusions daily. (Avery and Janet shake their amazing bitters a couple hundred times the first day, and then a few dozen each day after that.) Same clearly applies to the vanilla extract, which was useable within two weeks and is now a heady mixture.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I'm still using the original vanilla beans from the beginning of this experiment. This vanilla just rocks. As the level in the jar goes down I top it up with some vodka or bourbon and the "mother" vanilla does its magic. Absolutely one of many amazing things I've learned here.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I started some about 3 weeks ago with 5 beans (I'm guessing all Bourbon) in half a pint of cheap vodka. It started to color almost immediately. I ordered some Tahitian and Bourbon grade B beans from Vanilla Products, and I've started a bunch with 2 Tahitian beans and 3 Bourbon beans in 12 ounces of rum, half Bacardi Superior and half Bacardi Gold. I can't wait until I can use it!

I also stuck a couple of beans in some dry oatmeal and some in some sugar, and some in stevia powder. I'm curious to see how the vanilla stevia will turn out.


Tracy

Lenexa, KS, USA

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My MIL just hand carried 1lb of extract grade, and 1/4 pound of Tahitian grade A that vanilla products gives free to us here in Bangalore. My entire house smells of vanilla. My wife wants to chop up one of the beans and hide the pieces in each room for air fresheners!

Next week hopefully we can get to the market to get something to start the extract with.

I'm also planning some vanilla sugar, and trying to find excuses to use these beans anywhere I can!


PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

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