Homemade vanilla extract with its smooth, rich flavor profile is a wonderful addition to your spice cabinet and an appreciated gift for your favorite baker or gourmet. The process is simple with great results.
As with any cooking project, always choose quality ingredients. A finished product is only as good as its components - inferior ingredients will yield a lesser quality extract. I am using Indian Vanilla Beans from my friend, Gabi. She lives in India and is able to source only the finest spices and botanical finds.
You want beans that are fresh, plump and fragrant with abundant, glossy seed interiors.
Vanilla beans are the seed pods of the Vanilla Orchid, the planifolia. Vanilla orchids grow on bright green vines. The flowers produce in clusters of 12 to 20 buds with a white, yellow-green blossom that only blooms for one day. If the flowers are pollinated they will produce the fruit seed pods. The vanilla orchids are pollinated by hand and it takes about a month before the seed pods are ready. The pods are harvested before fully ripe and then cured into the dark vanilla beans.
The Aztecs used vanilla for its fragrance and flavor. Montezuma enjoyed vanilla with his chocolate drink and Cortez carried the beans to Europe where it quickly gained favor. In the 1600's Queen Elizabeth favored the vanilla and its popularity grew. Plantings were imported from Mexico to other tropical climates. It took many years before botanists realized that it would be necessary to hand pollinate the orchids to produce the fruit because the tiny bees of Mexico that naturally handled the task are not found in other regions.
The vanilla orchid plant produces many flavor profiles:
Madagascar - Dark, full bodied, rum and tobacco.
Bourbon - fruity with scents of figs, papaya, persimmon and cherries.
Mexico - sweet, smooth, and creamy.
Tonga - delicate fruity, cherry.
Papua New Guinea - wine.
Tahiti - floral and licorice.
India - large beans with high oil content woodsy quality.
Indonesia - very large beans, high oil content, strong flavor.
To make your own vanilla extract:
5 to 7 fine quality vanilla beans
1 cup vodka
With a sharp paring knife, split each bean leaving about an inch at the top.
Put vanilla beans in a clean glass jar or bottle and cover completely vodka.
Store in a cool dark place. Every couple of days, shake the jar.
Here you see the progression, the first bottle is day one, the second bottle is after two days and the third bottle is fully infused ready for use.
In 3 to 6 months, the extraction process is complete and the vanilla is ready. The richness and flavors will intensify with an even longer infusion, the longer the better. As the vanilla is used, you can top it off with additional vodka to keep the beans submerged. The vanilla will last for years as the flavor profile evolves with the aging process. Eventually, the vanilla beans will lose their fragrance and flavor signally the end of their usefulness.
If you prefer to remove the beans, you can bury them in a jar of table sugar. The beans will flavor the sugar rewarding you with a delightful vanilla sugar.
I hope you will try making your own pure vanilla infusion. Choose a special bottle, embellish the jars for gifting with some simple decorations and don't forget a personalized label and informational insert.
Keep them in your gift stash for those times when you need a little something for a special hostess, an extra boost for a gift basket, teacher or grandmother's present. Lovely in their simplicity and sure to be appreciated.
Thanks for visiting,
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By AuntieChrisQuiltFabric on 12/27/2012 @ 02:57amBeautiful and useful tutorial.Thanks for posting,can almost smell the aromas.
By Guest on 11/12/2012 @ 01:56amloved, loved, loved your recipes!
By Guest on 10/19/2012 @ 04:07pmloved this all this information..