By Dianna Kasprzak
I had my first experience making vanilla extract. It's simple and anyone can do it -- and I'll explain in this post how to "remove the obstacles" so that you will soon be making vanilla extract right in your own kitchen. It's a very simple process with just two ingredients: Vodka and vanilla beans.
It was my first experience with Vodka. Organic vodka, made right in a neighboring town, from corn grown by dedicated, local farmers. Since corn is the #1 GM (genetically modified) crop in the United States, it was important to me to choose organic vodka, which meant (1) the corn had been grown in soil that was made rich through composting, thus providing a natural replenishment of nutrients; and (2) with seed that had not been genetically modified, produced in a laboratory, where Bt had been innoculated into the seed, causing the seed to produce its own insecticide. How does this work? In a simple explanation, when the corn kernel is consumed by an insect, the Bt is released and explodes the insect's insides. There is good reason to believe that this same Bt, when consumed by humans, reacts much in the same way, "exploding" and leaving microscopic holes in the human intestine -- which some believe to be another cause of leaky gut. So choose organic corn and corn-derived products -- and for your vanilla-making adventures -- organic Vodka.
Why would you want to make your own vanilla? A good quality vanilla enhances your baked goods -- and it will cost less when you make your own. So let's get started.
The basic recipe is:
1 oz (2 TBSP) Vodka + 1 vanilla bean
You will, of course, want to make more than this, but I find it helpful to know the basic recipe. I decided to make plenty to also give away as gifts so mine looked like this:
24 vanilla beans + 24 oz (3 cups) Vodka
This amount fit very well into a 28 oz repurposed olive oil bottle, made from darkened glass. The darkened glass will protect the vanilla, in the same way that it protects the olive oil from breaking down, due to light exposure.
Tools that I found helpful in this process were:
Scale (to weigh out 24 ounces of Vodka)
Small funnel (to easily pour the Vodka into the bottle without spilling)
Now all you need is time. It will take at least 8 weeks, but I've heard a little longer is better, so I'll be going 10 weeks on my vanilla. With a label or a piece of masking tape, write your "begin" date on the bottle, count out 8 (or 10) weeks, and write this date also on the label. The Vodka will need to be agitated to react with the vanilla beans, so plan to shake your bottle at least once a week and twice a week is better. Choose the days and times when you are most likely to be in your kitchen and set up your routine for the twice-a-week shakes.
That's it. At the end of the waiting period, you may choose to use your vanilla right out of the bottle that it was made in (leaving the vanilla beans inside), or by transferring a portion of it to a smaller, colored glass bottle. If you previously purchased vanilla in a darkened glass bottle, simply refill it with your new vanilla.
It's that easy. The biggest part is to remove the obstacles -- gather your supplies and ingredients.