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The make-your-own vanilla extract experiment


Fat Guy
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This article seems to indicate that exposure to sunlight can be a problem, but I don't think it means that you need to store the extract in an opaque bottle if it's already being stored in a dark cupboard.

When cells in suspension containing any of the flavorants were exposed to sunlight for different time intervals, the number of induced mutations increased in different ways as the exposure time increased (Fig. 2). Vanilla increased the number of induced mutation in an additive fashion i.e. a fixed increase over that seen without added chemical. This may suggest that sunlight exposure generates a limited number of sites that can only be changed in the presence of vanilla during exposure.

Salih FM. 2006. Risk assessment of combined photogenotoxic effects of sunlight and food additives. In Science of The Total Environment, 362 (1-3): 68-73.

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I haven't seen any studies on the effects of storage temps, but my brief search did bring up a bunch of articles on the effect of vanillin in inhibiting spoilage and yeast growth, especially in apple juice, various fruit purees, and cut fruit. That suggests to me that vanilla extract probably doesn't easily spoil, even at room temperature.

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I assume the alcohol would be more than enough to prevent spoilage. I'm wondering about preserving the flavor. Many flavorful and aromatic agents can eventually react with oxygen, or with each other, and lower temperatures slow that process considerably. I just don't know how stable vanilla is in an extract solution.

Notes from the underbelly

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Right, but I'm saying, there don't seem to be any studies on that. The closest I can get to that topic is studies indicating that vanillin itself is a preservative. If that is true, it seems unlikely that it would break down with any haste at room temperature. It surely wouldn't be a very effective preservative that way. The only instructions I've seen regarding temp and storage are from vanilla extract manufacturers, like this one (http://www.nielsenmassey.com/faq.htm) who says that it should be stored at room temperature. They don't say how they arrived at that conclusion.

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Too much heat causes the alcohol to vaporize, it is extremely difficult to seal a bottle tightly enough to stop all of the alcohol loss.

UV light degrades the compounds in vanilla that give it flavor and aroma. Dark brown or blue bottles are best - opaque milk glass has been used also.

I happen to like the cobalt blue.

The desirable flavor compounds in vanilla are not soluable in water.

Casein will bind the compounds, which is why simmering vanilla beans in milk or cream will produce excellent flavor - doesn't happen in water.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, glycerine is used to produce flavorings that must be alcohol-free for religious or other reasons.

Glycerine is hydrophyllic and mixes so completely with water that it carries the flavors along with it.

(If you want to test this, simply rub some glycerine on your fingers. It is very sticky and will feel like it is producing heat with massaging. Lightly spray with water and, like magic, it disappears so completely that you can't feel any residue on your fingers.)

Like alcohol and casein, sugars, particularly the more complex ones, are also efficient at extracting flavor.

I use a mixture of palm sugar and palm vinegar to make a concentrated spice flavoring using cinnamon, cloves, pepper and ginger.

"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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I've ordered bulk vanilla beans from that company twice now; once over a year ago and just this January. I split about six beans and put them in some vodka (I'll have to check on the brand, but I'm thinking it wasn't too expensive.) This was over a year ago. I kept it in a dark cupboard and shook it a few times a week. There are nice dark flecks, and the vanilla is an amber color. I've been using it regularly.

I've read elsewhere that making vanilla this way results in a weaker product, but I've also read that it's stronger. I'm not sure how to quantify it, as I don't think I'd like a vanilla side-by-side tasting that much. But most brands of commercial vanilla seem to add coloring and even sugar, which I haven't done with mine.

It does smell heavenly, by the way.

Oh, and I had bought the grade-A beans, because I was planning to do other things with them. I've been happy with the results in my baking.

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Here's another project for using those vanilla beans!

After sending a flurry of emails last night to one of my friends who makes his own vanilla paste, he finally phoned me this morning, explaining that he can get email on his phone but right now is unable to send. (Connects to the internet via satellite and his link is down- he lives in a remote area.)

Anyway, he uses only organic products, no alcohol "spirits" and is a moderate vegetarian.

He buys vanilla beans from the same source as Steven and also from other sources but said the quality of the beans from this company is quite good.

For the vanilla paste he splits, chops and crushes the beans.

He places them in a jar and barely covers them with Xylitol base, a liquid sugar "alcohol" which he says is very good for extracting flavor from the beans.

He uses a combination of - 8 Mexican, 4 Bourbon or Madagascar and 2 Tahitian - beans. The combination is because the various types have different flavor components and a blend gives a better overall taste.

Information about Xylitol and his supply source is Here!

He allows the beans to soak in the liquid for 4-6 weeks.

He then puts the beans and the liquid through a food grinder with a very fine die. He says he actually uses a poppy-seed grinder as most food grinders, unless you can find one of the old ones with a nut-butter disk, won't grind finely enough. (This is a hand-cranked device, not electric.)

He said do not use a blender - he has tried it and the results are not good, the fibers in the bean husks do not get chopped as fine as with the "mill."

He uses a tablespoon or so of hot water to rinse as much of the residue from the mill as possible, and spreads the "slurry" (his word) over the bottom of a Corning ware skillet(he said enamel is okay, do not use bare metal). He places it over very low heat - actually he uses a Salton electric warming tray - and stirs and folds it periodically with a silicone spatula until it has thickened to a paste consistency, i.e., when scraped off the bottom, it should stay in place, not collapse back into a puddle. Commercial pastes include thickeners but he doesn't like to use them, even the "organic" ones.

Store tightly sealed in an opaque glass or porcelain jar with the least amount of "head space" - do not store in metal, plastic or in crockery containers.

I have not tried this myself, but I intend to do so. I have been the recipient of a 2-oz jar, as a Holiday gift, and I found it excellent. Better than the commercial paste by Nielsen-Massey or Cobra. (I think TJs is made by Nielsen-Massey). I got a sample of another brand that used Tahitian beans but it was too perfumey for my taste.

I want to add that made this way, this is halal and can be used by Muslims.

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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I love Andiesenji and I love egullet. Where else could a foodgeek find fellow travelers who think that making your own vanilla extract is a no-brainer and then, after exploring half a dozen scientific questions, come up with this set of instructions? And feel compelled to follow them? And what on earth am I going to do with all this vanilla?

By the way, my jars of Smirnoff are already a rich brown. I haven't opened them to take a whiff yet.

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How does one use vanilla paste?

I've hidden the jars (three of them--what the heck was I thinking?) of vanilla extract-in-the-making in the basement behind the wine b/c I'm embarrassed to tell my husband that I'm making 1.75 liters of vanilla. :blink: How am I going to explain the vanilla paste experiment? :biggrin: Maybe my *other* project to make my own sauercraut will win him over...

And I agree, I love eGullet.

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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How does one use vanilla paste?

I've hidden the jars (three of them--what the heck was I thinking?) of vanilla extract-in-the-making in the basement behind the wine b/c I'm embarrassed to tell my husband that I'm making 1.75 liters of vanilla.   :blink:   How am I going to explain the vanilla paste experiment?   :biggrin:   Maybe my *other* project to make my own sauercraut will win him over...

And I agree, I love eGullet.

Vanilla extract makes a great gift. Last fall they had little cobalt blue bottles at Cost Plus World Market that are just the right size.

Vanilla paste can be blended into milk, cream, egg custard other liquids. Great for flavoring ice cream, coffee.

I know someone who blends it into root beer for a little extra "flavor kick" in a root beer float.

I have added very small amounts to fruit salad dressings and also to the dressing I put on Waldorf salad, especially when I add chicken to it.

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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Just checked on, and agitated, my three jars. They have less of an industrial aroma than they did the first time around, but they still don't smell like vanilla extract. I imagine I'm looking at a few more months of aging before things really click.

I also haven't got a clue how to taste this stuff. I licked some off a finger and I just didn't get any helpful sensory data. Maybe I have to mix it with a sugar solution to taste it properly.

In the meantime, I'm running out of vanilla extract.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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At the Fancy Food Show they would sample the vanilla in drops of haevy cream......

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

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Just checked on, and agitated, my three jars. They have less of an industrial aroma than they did the first time around, but they still don't smell like vanilla extract. I imagine I'm looking at a few more months of aging before things really click.

I also haven't got a clue how to taste this stuff. I licked some off a finger and I just didn't get any helpful sensory data. Maybe I have to mix it with a sugar solution to taste it properly.

In the meantime, I'm running out of vanilla extract.

It will be much better after 4-6 months and will continue to improve.

The best way to taste it is to mix a drop into a teaspoon of milk, or, if you have some unsalted crackers (like "wine" crackers, put a drop on the cracker and let it soak in for fifteen minutes, then taste.

"Emergency" vanilla flavoring.

Can you get a little bottle of glycerine at a drug store?

Split, chop and mash half a vanilla bean in a mortar, add some glycerine and keep mashing until it is a gooey paste, add a little glucose or light corn syrup and continue to work it in the mortar until it is a semi-liquid slurry. Dilute it with just a little brandy to make it easier to measure.

This won't have the raw alcohol aroma and flavor.

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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While I'm waiting for my vanilla, I taste-tested my vanilla sugar yesterday on a bowl of strawberries. Yum! The sugar is a little clumpy, I assume from the moisture in the beans, but it's got a great aroma and flavor. Can't wait to see how the same beans perform in my rum.

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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Today is day 14 of the vanilla experiment. Today I will agaitate for the second time. The two jars with the beans left whole but slit down the side are much darker in color than the two jars with the chopped up beans.

Also, the vodka batch appears to be ever so slightly darker than the rum batch. Will take new photos soon and post them.

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

Amanda Newton

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As someone else wrote, I'm bummed because I just ran out of vanilla extract and I have this Mason jar incubating (and not ready for sure). Oh well. There goes another $8.

My beans are all in one jar, dark cool room and in bourbon. I have been regularly agitating as someone suggested. I opened the jar to have a whiff today. Very alcohol-smelling with an ever-so-slight sense of vanilla (or is that just my wishful thinking).

As another person wrote, "Patience!" (not my strongest quality). Hanging in there and waiting. Another month or 2 maybe????

-Mark-

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"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

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I had a half used bottle of extract (kirkland brand) and added a few slit beans and topped it off with vodka. It was fine in about a day. A couple of days and the vanilla smell was nice and potent!

I ordered the b grade Tahitian beans and did 6 quart jars with vodka (I did about 1 part water 3 parts vodka). I didn't think I liked the smell as much, but the extract-even on it's 2nd day smells so floral/vanilla. I may splurge and buy some Madagascar beans for the 'regular' vanilla extract.

This is going to be great Christmas presents! You guys are great inspirations!

Jennifer

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"Emergency" vanilla flavoring.

Can you get a little bottle of glycerine at a drug store? 

Split, chop and mash half a vanilla bean in a mortar, add some glycerine and keep mashing until it is a gooey paste, add a little glucose or light corn syrup and continue to work it in the mortar until it is a semi-liquid slurry.  Dilute it with just a little brandy to make it easier to measure. 

This won't have the raw alcohol aroma and flavor.

Andie, I looked at my drug store and the only glycerine there said "For external use only." Are there different kinds of glycerine? Where do you find it?

Thanks,

Ellen

Edited by EllenC (log)
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"Emergency" vanilla flavoring.

Can you get a little bottle of glycerine at a drug store? 

Split, chop and mash half a vanilla bean in a mortar, add some glycerine and keep mashing until it is a gooey paste, add a little glucose or light corn syrup and continue to work it in the mortar until it is a semi-liquid slurry.  Dilute it with just a little brandy to make it easier to measure. 

This won't have the raw alcohol aroma and flavor.

Andi, I looked at my drug store and the only glycerine there said "For external use only." Are there different kinds of glycerine? Where do you find it?

Thanks,

Ellen

If you ask the pharmacist, they usually have the food grade "USP" glycerine.

You should also be able to find it at health food stores.

The local Walgreens has USP glycerine on the shelf next to the mineral oil and Milk of Magnesia. Different stores have it in other places. Health food stores always have it with the sweeteners.

Andie

"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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Thank you Andie. I found it at the Co-op. They sell it in bulk.

I agitated my jars again. Both the bourbon and the rum look about the same color now. The set in water smells the best, though.

I am so looking forward to the Christmas presents I can give. I think I will go buy some vodka and start some of that too. Some of my friends don't like the flavor the others will add.

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A note about infusing vanilla in plain water.

It is best to heat the liquid periodically to halt growth of any mold spores.

Alcohol will keep mold spores from growing in those extracts, but you do need to process the liquid that does not have a preservative.

Glycerine is also a preservative!

It is also advisable to use distilled water because of the minerals that might be in the tap water in your area.

Several years ago I ordered some vanilla beans that were sent to me during an extra hot spell. I did not remove them from the package for a couple of days - took them out of the padded envelope and left then on the counter in the plastic bag in which they were shipped.

A couple of days later I noticed the beans had mold growing on them. Probably because of moisture that condensed inside the bag when it cooled down.

Had to toss the entire package.

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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