Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

The make-your-own vanilla extract experiment


Fat Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

If any of you are looking for containers for the vanilla extract, try your local home brew supply shops. I have been using the brown, 22 oz. swing top bottles that my local shop sells.

Bob R in OKC

Bob R in OKC

Home Brewer, Beer & Food Lover!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Using Bourbon to make vanilla extract almost certainly comes from people being unaware that Madagascar/Reunion/Mayotte/Comoros/etc were called the Bourbon islands.  I'm gunna make me sum bur-bun vanillie, where'd I put that dang fifth of jack?

Neutral spirits are the way to go...

I disagree. I am perfectly aware that the label "Madagascar Bourbon" does not imply that the extract was made with bourbon.

However, I've chosen to make my batch with bourbon nonetheless, as I am particularly fond of the flavor combination of bourbon and vanilla and use it in many desserts. And I've chosen not to use Jack, because Jack isn't a whiskey that I care for (being from Tennessee and all). :wink:

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My sister uses Crown Royal sometimes, but reserves the resulting extract for baking it is suited for - fruit cakes, pecan pie, heavy holiday baking, that sort of thing. She also keeps some in vodka for more neutral recipes like ice cream, butter cookies, etc.

I guess the solvent could also be considered a flavor component on it's own.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Today I had a bizarre craving for rum raisin ice cream. But it was pouring out, and all I had was some Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream. It occurred to me: I have raisins, and in my cabinet I have Tahitian vanilla that has been sitting in a jar of rum for the past four months. Surely I can do something here.

I took a handful of raisins and about a teaspoon of the vanilla extract, and also added a little water and a little sugar. I stuck all that in the microwave for a minute and the raisins soaked up all the liquid. I let the ice cream soften a bit and mixed in the raisins as best I could, then put it back in the freezer to firm up.

It was great!

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)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Today I had a bizarre craving for rum raisin ice cream. But it was pouring out, and all I had was some Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream. It occurred to me: I have raisins, and in my cabinet I have Tahitian vanilla that has been sitting in a jar of rum for the past four months. Surely I can do something here.

I took a handful of raisins and about a teaspoon of the vanilla extract, and also added a little water and a little sugar. I stuck all that in the microwave for a minute and the raisins soaked up all the liquid. I let the ice cream soften a bit and mixed in the raisins as best I could, then put it back in the freezer to firm up.

It was great!

Brilliant. I bet those drunk raisins would make an excellent fold in for a rum cake as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brilliant. I bet those drunk raisins would make an excellent fold in for a rum cake as well.

When I made ice cream commercially, we made the rum raisin by soaking the raisins in rum overnight ... no heating required to get them soft, plump and drunk. This would be worth trying with the vanilla, assuming the immediate craving isn't too overwhelming.

Notes from the underbelly

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I've just ordered 1/4 a pound of grade a vanilla planifolia (madagascar bourbon) beans which should get here in 2-5 days and I think I'm going to scale it down so I can make some vanilla extract with only 3 or so beans. I know essentially nothing about alcohol but I've managed to procure some vodka I can use.

Its funny... a guy under 21 going through hoops to illegally get alcohol and then using it to make vanilla extract (and I'm wanting to make some coconut extract as well.. i'm wanting to make a homemade coconut cake sometime) instead of drinking it....

edit:

woo, now I've managed to get ahold of some Bacardi Superior Rum, some Smirnoff Vodka, and some Everclear grain alcohol. Not too shabby for an underaged guy... and yet I'm interested in actually drinking any of it.

Still waiting on my grade A madagascar bourbon vanilla beans to get here so I can start the process. I know, I know, it is probobly a waste to use Grade A beans when I could have gotten extract grade, but I wanted them mostly for cooking with and I didn't want to order too many.

Edited by dolseni (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On a side note note, I wonder if any of the alcohol gets absorbed into the vanilla beans. Could make an interesting drinking game addition when your essence is finished brewing, kind of like the worm in the tequila?

Edited by Natho (log)

"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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I'm not a very patient person! :) Mine is only 6 weeks old and I'm using it ... each night 2 tspns in my mug of hot milk before bed ... mmmm!! Nukeing it in the microwave removes the alcohol smell and I'm just left with lovely vanilla flavour!!

It can only get better ... I think my idea of giving it away as a gift for Christmas might be scuttled by it being used up before then! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After petting the cats, the second thing I did after returning from 3 months away from home was smell my vanilla. It's dark, done and fragrant. Time to start another batch

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

It has been about five months now, and my vanilla has really started to take shape. Most of the harsh aromas are gone now, and what remains is a gentle, floral, buttery smell.

My one regret in this experiment is that I used all Tahitian vanilla pods. I wish I'd done half with Bourbon vanilla. I've somewhat remedied that oversight, however, in that a little while back I split off half of one of my three batches and added several Bourbon vanilla beans from Madagascar -- so I now have both pure Tahitian and a Tahitian-Bourbon blend going.

Already, the blend seems more interesting to me. It retains the floral aromas of the Tahitian but also has some of the velvet-glove traditional vanilla aromas of the Bourbon. I should probably make some pure Bourbon too, but it would be so far behind the curve as to make side-by-side comparison difficult.

It so happens that we're also just a few teaspoons away from being out of commercially made vanilla extract. So as soon as that runs out -- probably right around the six-month mark -- we'll switch over to homemade.

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)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been following this thread and now Im wondering if a similar process would work with cocoa nibs -

if not at the extract level of intensity, perhaps to make cocoa flavored booze.

Anyone have any opinions or experience re this?

I know this question is from a few months ago but I didn't see any responses so, just for fun, lets find out. I've got plenty o' cocoa nibs left from another project sitting around so we might as well see what happens if I let them party in a jar of booze for a while. Worst case, it'll be a disgusting mess that I have to throw away... won't be the first time I made one of those. I won't interrupt (again) the vanilla thread with it, I'll post it elsewhere when I have results.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Just resurrecting this thread, as I have begun my own batch of holiday presents (12 12-oz Ball jars worth of Tahitian/Madagascar blend happily steeping in the basement).

Has anyone tried making any other alcohol-based homemade extracts or flavorings? I imagine citrus of any sort would be pretty simple, but what about other fruits, like berries? Coffee? Coconut? Cinnamon? I just can't figure out how to tell whether something has compounds that are soluble in alcohol to the extent that it would produce a good quality extract.

I'm in the process of starting a small marshmallow business, and making my own flavorings and extracts would not only save money, but enable me to stick to my "no artificial ingredients" guns.

Thanks to one and all - this is a marvelously educational thread!

Edited by patris (log)

Patty

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just resurrecting this thread, as I have begun my own batch of holiday presents (12 12-oz Ball jars worth of Tahitian/Madagascar blend happily steeping in the basement).

Has anyone tried making any other alcohol-based homemade extracts or flavorings?  I imagine citrus of any sort would be pretty simple, but what about other fruits, like berries?  Coffee? Coconut? Cinnamon?  I just can't figure out how to tell whether something has compounds that are soluble in alcohol to the extent that it would produce a good quality extract.

I'm in the process of starting a small marshmallow business, and making my own flavorings and extracts would not only save money, but enable me to stick to my "no artificial ingredients" guns.

Thanks to one and all - this is a marvelously educational thread!

Well, I just made a cinnamon tincture, in order to make Mahogany cocktails. Just take a spice jar of cinnamon sticks, fill it with vodka, and check back in two weeks. It smells like cinnamon hearts and tastes like cinnamon hearts and wood. I don't know how it would work in candy, but it's not that expensive to find out!

You might also check out the Vodka Infusions at Home and All About Bitters threads in the cocktails forum. Lots of good starting points there.

Edited by mkayahara (log)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is a hint that originally came from a very old chemist's (pharmacist's) formula book, owned by my employer of many years. (He passed away in Jan.)

At that time local pharmacists made flavorings - as I recall, the book was printed in England around the turn of the last century. I really did not spend much time examining it because it was somewhat fragile. However, I did make a note of the following:

To make the infusions of "warm" spices (nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, clove, allspice, anise, juniper berries) more flavorful, add a very small amount of crushed black pepper.

I also have an old recipe for sassafras tea that advises the addition of a scant pinch of black pepper.

In addition to citrus flavorings, I have made cranberry, apricot, anise, spearmint, pineapple.

And sumac, lavendar and birch.

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

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think my vanilla extract is ready for prime time. But now I'm not exactly sure what to do with it. Should I pour some off into a smaller secondary jar, then top off the primary jar with more spirits? Can I just continue on like that for years? Or what?

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)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Depending on the type of beans, and how fresh they are, they reach a point where no more flavor can be extracted. It is on one of the links I posted earlier in this thread.

You can experiment with the "finished" product.

Pour off and tightly seal most of it. Reserve a small amount and reduce it over very low heat (I use a butter warmer that sits over a candle) which will give a super-concentrated result which you can dispense by dropper.

This is good for flavoring coffee, chocolates, etc., one drop goes a long way.

"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

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you treat the extract that you pour off in any way? Just put it in a bottle and go with it?

Would there be any point to scraping the seeds into the extract?

I've been using spoonfuls of the stuff for a couple of weeks now. It does smell much more alchoholic and less sweet than the commercial stuff, but it seems to work just fine. Last evening I put some in a batch of pear ice cream--we have a surfeit of pears from our one pear tree--and it was lovely. The Tahitian seemed like a better match for that recipe than the Madagascar, but I wasn't scientific enough to do a side-by-side test.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I prefer to use a blend with Mexican and Bourbon (Madagascar) beans, no Tahitian because I don't care for the flowery, perfumey flavor - however this is a personal thing, choose what your nose and tongue find best.

I have been given a couple of Hawaiian vanilla beans, and made a tiny vial of extract with half of one. If the price were more reasonable, I believe I would use these exclusively as I find the flavor is superior. The beans I received were very large, half again the size of the Bourbon or Mexican, fat and very moist and the seed volume inside was much greater.

My visitor, who now lives in Hawaii but was my neighbor here for many years, brought me, besides the vanilla beans, some cocoa, chocolate, coffee, five pounds of macadamia nuts and two pounds of comb honey, all grown and produced in Hawaii.

She used to be in advertising and was a huge proponent of California-grown products. Now she is retired but has become even more enthusiastic about Hawaiian products.

"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

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One more question.  I have always been confused about the definition of a grain alcohol. So, what is a  grain alcohol?  I am assuming that Rye (crown royal) is a grain alcohol. What about Vodka, is it a grain alcohol?

usually when people say grain alcohol they're talking about very strong, neutral spirits, like everclear.

i haven't heard the term used for whisky or vodka or other normal drinks, even though whisky is always made with grain and vodka usually is.

Notes from the underbelly

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My visitor, who now lives in Hawaii but was my neighbor here for many years, brought me, besides  the vanilla beans, some cocoa, chocolate, coffee, five pounds of macadamia nuts and two pounds of comb honey, all grown and produced in Hawaii. 

Any chance she needs a 46-year-old adopted, state-side daughter? :biggrin::laugh:

Jamie Lee

Beauty fades, Dumb lasts forever. - Judge Judy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From what I understand the term grain alcohol is the definition mainly for bourbons, whiskeys, and vodkas (unless specified as a potato vodka). Rum comes mainly from sugar cane, tequila from the agave plant, and schnaps I think are mainly from fruit. I have used a pear schnaps to make an extract with vanilla that has turned out to be wonderful. Not only did it take on the sweat vanilla taste (obviously) but it maintained the pear flavor which is what I was hoping for. This extract has turned simple things such as ice creams, cakes, and custards into totally different desserts. I have also used bourbon to make the extract which again gave off a great vanilla flavor but I found the bourbon flavor turned bitter (much more so than normal). I think this is because I used such a cheap brand. I have found that unless you are using vodka then the quality of the liquor does make a difference in the taste of the final product. Also, it is important to use the proper bean for the liquor base. If using something strong such as a bourbon or whiskey I have found it better to use a stronger flavored bean such as a Mexican bean so it can compete properly with the strong flavors in the alcohol. I am working next on a peach extract using peach schnapps as my base.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...