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Vanilla Extract

1840 Farm Homemade Vanilla Extract KitI started making my own vanilla extract several years ago.  I didn’t do it to save money or make a better product.  I did it because it’s just what you do when someone in your family suddenly has food allergies.  Well, it’s not the first thing.  But after you’ve taken a three-hour trip to the grocery store and read EVERY label on EVERY product you pick up.  And after you’ve put more than half of them back on the shelf after realizing what is really in them.  And after you have your own private pity party about all of the things you love to eat that are now as welcome on your kitchen table as drain cleaner stew.

Baking had already become a science experiment in our kitchen.  There were no eggs to depend on in all the ways we had come to depend on them.  There were no pecans for pie, no walnuts for brownies, no freedom to add a little of this or a little of that just because we felt like it.  Okay, so now I have officially descended into my own private pity party.  Don’t worry.  It won’t last long.

One of the baking staples that I had a terrible time finding ingredient information and allergy warnings on was vanilla extract.  It wasn’t for a lack of trying.  In my searching online, I discovered that making vanilla extract required exactly two ingredients and a little cupboard space.

I was skeptical.  My family looked at me with the same look they used the first time I proudly told them that I had perfected a brioche recipe using tofu instead of eggs.  I’m sure you can close your eyes and picture exactly what I’m talking about.  Then they smelled my first vanilla extract and tasted it for the first time in frosting that was filled with vanilla bean specks.  They were sold.  This crazy  food experiment was a keeper.

I buy my vanilla bean pods at Micucci’s Grocery in Portland, Maine.  The last time I was there, the cashier asked me what I was doing with “all of those vanilla beans”.  After I told her that I was using them to make vanilla extract, she looked at me quizzically and asked how.  I explained how easy it was and then the man next to me in line leaned over and asked if I could explain again how it was done.  He proceeded to buy his own package of vanilla bean pods and happily proclaimed that he was going home to make his own.

I felt like I had done my food good deed for the day.  Good food karma would surely follow.  It did.  I was at Micucci’s after all, and a slab of their Sicilian pizza is as good as food karma gets in my book.

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Over the last two years, I have answered countless messages from readers who have difficulty finding reasonably priced, premium quality vanilla beans.  I am happy to share with you that you can now purchase a homemade vanilla bean extract kit from The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy.

With each kit, you can produce 12 ounces of delicious homemade vanilla extract.  After the extract has been used, you can easily repeat the process again and make another 12 ounces of extract.

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Vanilla Extract

6 vanilla bean pods, split lengthwise
750 mL vodka

Remove cork/cap from the bottle of vodka.  Pour out enough vodka to make yourself a cocktail (or two if you are so inclined).  Insert split vanilla bean pods into bottle and replace the cork.  Gently invert the bottle while holding the cork in place.   I usually have two bottles-one that I am working from and one that is “brewing”.  I find that the extract is best when allowed to brew for at least three months.   Gently agitating the brewing bottle occasionally will help to distribute the vanilla beans throughout the liquid.  I store the extracts in the same cabinet as my olive oil as they both thrive in the same cool, dark conditions.

When you reach the end of the working bottle, you can refill the bottle with vodka and set it aside for another three months.  I find that the pods can be used more than once although they will yield a liquid that is slightly lighter in color although no less flavorful.  After the pods have been used twice, simply tip the split pods out of the bottle onto a paper towel and allow them to dry several hours or overnight.  Place dried pods in a container with resealable lid (a quart size canning jar works well) and cover with white sugar.  In a matter of days, you will open the container to find that the sugar has been transformed into vanilla bean sugar.  It will become a welcome addition to the tops of cappuccino, muffins, and cookies.  Sugar cookies never had it so good.

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  1. Bee

    Great post. It never occured to me that I could make my own vanilla extract (silly I know!)

    1. Jennifer Burcke

      Glad you enjoyed it! Good luck-you won’t believe how easy it is to make.

  2. JoAnn

    I use dark rum for my homemade vanilla extract. The color and aroma is wonderful, hints of molasses.

    1. Jennifer Burcke

      I will have to give the rum a try. Thanks for the idea!

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