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How To Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract being so expensive, you would think that it would be difficult to make.  Not so. Making vanilla extract requires few ingredients – vanilla beans, alcohol and a glass jar – and a fair amount of time. The expense lies in that vanilla “beans” are the seedpods of an orchid. This orchid must be hand pollinated to obtain the beans that are the base of this extract we all use.

Storage Bottles

Choose dark glass bottles or jars with tight fitting lids to store your vanilla extract. Dark glass protects the extract from direct sun exposure. A tight-fitting lid or cork will keep it from evaporating from your jar.

Alcohol for the Base

It is not important what type of alcohol you use. What is important is that it is at least 80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol; a higher proof is fine as well. If it is a lower percentage, you won’t yield a good quality extract. Remember: the higher the proof, the stronger your extract.

Choosing Beans

Get the best beans you can, but remember that more expensive isn’t always better. If you are purchasing online, check product reviews for quality verses price. Also, Grade “B” (or extract grade) beans will give the most vanilla flavor per pound of beans. Remember that professional bakers use double fold extracts (see below) for better flavor.

Seeds may float in the syrupy liquid. Unless you are giving the finished product as a gift, don’t remove them – they will add more depth to the flavor over time. Also beans may be reused as long as they retain their vanilla fragrance – when they lose their scent, discard them and add fresh beans to your recipe. You may remove the beans from the alcohol base and scrape out the seeds or chop them and use them in your favorite recipes in place of the extract if you want a strong vanilla flavor. You can also dry them thoroughly and place them in a canister of sugar to make vanilla sugar. They can also be added to a bottle of olive oil or a tin of tea to flavor them, as well.

Some who make vanilla extract add sugar or corn syrup. Adding 20 percent or more sugar to freshly made extract is like fortifying any alcoholic product; it reduces the harshness of the unaged vanilla. Well-aged vanilla extract is naturally sweet, so this step isn’t necessary.

Single Fold vs. Double Fold and Stronger Extracts

Single fold vanilla extract (written 1X) is the standard concentrate of pure vanilla extract. Double fold (2X) is twice as strong. This means that twice as many beans were used than are generally used in single fold extracts. These concentrations can go up to 20X, but they are not considered stable after 4X. In candy making, where liquids can change the chemistry of the finished product, multi-fold concentrations are very useful. Any of these recipes can be made into multifold extracts by increasing the number of beans used. Below are several recipes; you can try them and choose your favorite.

Recipe 1

Recipe 2

Recipe 3

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Recipe 4

Recipe 5

Recipe 6

Recipe 7

Recipe 8