Making vanilla extract is simple, fun, and fairly inexpensive when compared to how much store bought vanilla extract can be.
The vanilla bean comes from an orchid and takes an incredible amount of time and care to cultivate. Only one vanilla pod comes from each orchid plant and they need to be hand pollinated. Since the flower only blooms for one day, time is of the essence! It takes about ten months for the pod to mature from the pollinated flower and needs to be harvested at just the right time to ensure quality. The bean pod is then cured before it is used.
Vanilla extract is made by extracting the vanilla flavor from the pod and beans with alcohol.
Here is the recipe I used, adapted from Rosalee de la Foret. Check out Learning Herbs for great info and recipes!
Makes 1 quart of vanilla which equals 6 -4oz bottles
Using a sharp knife, cut the beans in half. You can either scrape out the “caviar” from the inside of the beans or just flay the bean to expose the innards.
Place all of the vanilla beans with innards into the jar. Fill the jar with alcohol of choice and close lid.
Let the vanilla sit in the jar for 4-6 weeks. The longer the better. You can taste it after 4-6 weeks to see if it is strong enough. UPDATE: I have been letting mine sit for 6-8 MONTHS and it results in a much richer extract.
You can leave the vanilla beans in the alcohol indefinitely. When the jar is 1/4 empty, just add more liquor.
If you are giving the vanilla extract as a gift, strain the vanilla beans out after the desired time and put the extract into an amber bottle with a fresh vanilla pod(optional) and attach a label. The cool thing about vanilla pods is that you can dry them after the extracting process and reuse them to make vanilla sugar. Just place the dried pod in a jar with your choice of sugar and there you go!
I mentioned that I purchased my vanilla beans from Amadeus Trading Company. I highly recommend this company for buying quality organic vanilla beans from. I have spoken to the owner personally and appreciate how much time and energy he takes to ensure the quality of the beans he provides as well as the welfare of the growers. He also provides excellent customer service which is extremely important to me. I am not an affiliate of the company, I just really like the beans!
Sarah is a crunchy, Eco-chic wife, homeschooling mama to four lively children, and real food blogger at Real Food Outlaws. She is also an herbalist and owns 90210 Organics, an Eco-boutique and Apothecary. She's a Certified Health Coach, Natural Living Consultant and Essential Oil Connoisseur. You can often find her barefoot in the garden (or kitchen), or rummaging through a refrigerator (not necessarily her own).