Vanilla, often considered the “plain Jane” flavor in the ice cream world, actually has a very exotic origin.
Vanilla extract is derived from the seed pods of the vanilla orchid. After a lengthy process of curing and fermentation, the seed pods (often called “beans” because of their resemblance to string beans) are dried, and then, usually with alcohol, an extract is made.
Put the vanilla beans in a pint glass jar or bottle and cover them completely with vodka. Screw on the lid or cap. Set the mixture aside in a cool, dark place to steep for at least 3 to 4 weeks (longer is better), shaking occasionally to combine.
Keeping the beans in the jar, you may use this homemade blend like any other vanilla extract. When the liquid gets below the level of the beans, just add more vodka.
Cheri notes that you can usually get three or four bottles of extract from the two vanilla beans. If you choose, you can add sugar or a sweetener like agave nectar to the extract to soften the flavor of the alcohol.
Alcohol-free homemade vanilla extract recipe
While alcohol’s chemical properties make it the perfect liquid to bring out the aroma and flavor of the vanilla, some people prefer to have their extract alcohol-free.
Here’s a recipe for a substitute version. Spoon for spoon, it might be a little less aromatic than its alcoholic counterpart, so you might choose to use a little extra.
Place the sliced vanilla bean pods in a pint glass jar or bottle, and cover them completely with the food-grade vegetable glycerin. Screw on the lid or cap. Set the mixture aside in a cool, dark place to steep for at least 3-4 weeks, shaking occasionally to combine.
Keeping the beans in the jar, you may use this homemade blend like any other vanilla extract. When the liquid gets below the level of the beans, just add more glycerin. Add in more bean pods (with or without seeds) as you like — perhaps after using the seeds in other recipes.