Did you know you can make your own pure vanilla extract at home with just a few ingredients? It’s not a mystery any longer and it’s a lovely gift to give to your favorite baker. As with any homemade product, there are several benefits to making your own. For one, you get to choose the quality of ingredients and know exactly what is in your vanilla extract. This means, you will have the highest quality vanilla extract available without anything artificial.
A few years back we decided as a family to give handcrafted gifts for the holidays instead of purchasing them. I was in search of what I could make that would be both fun and practical. That’s when I learned that I could make my own pure vanilla extract. Why had I not thought of this before? Considering that nearly everything that is mass produced now were once made at home, it’s not that crazy of a thought that I could produce a gift that my family and friends would enjoy.
So what is pure vanilla extract? It is simply the extract (flavor and aroma) from the vanilla beans that have been immersed in alcohol (usually vodka because of it’s neutral flavor, but sometimes brandy or rum) over a period of time. The FDA requires;
“In vanilla extract the content of ethyl alcohol is not less than 35 percent by volume and the content of vanilla constituent, as defined in 169.3(c), is not less than one unit per gallon.”
So that means the vanilla extract you’ll find in the store, is 70 proof (35% alcohol) and it contains 13.35 oz of bean per gallon of alcohol which would produce a single strength vanilla extract. After more research I found that some bakers prefer a double strength vanilla extract and others do not. I am guessing it is a matter of preference. I lean toward loving the scent of vanilla and enjoy baking with it so my recipe may have a wee bit more vanilla than others but since I’m making my own and not planning to sell it I can follow whatever guideline works for our baking needs and that is a nice pure vanilla extract that flavors our baked goods without overpowering them.
The vanilla bean grows from a kind of tropical orchid. The fruit starts out as a hard green pod and the greenish white flowers (missing in this photo) and in a natural setting are dependent on bees to pollinate them, but now in modern times they can be artificially pollinated. These vanilla beans are picked unripe and then submerged in hot water to remove their protective cover and allow for the natural liquids to seep out. They are then allowed to dry in the sunlight and ferment. When they have turned brown and covered with a layer of vanillin crystals the vanilla beans are ready.