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Old 11-02-2004, 10:17 AM   #1
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Home-made vanilla extract

I followed a recipe to make home made vanilla extract. I chopped up 2 vanilla beans, and sealed them in a glass jar with about 1 cup of Vodka, as directed. You are supposed to shake the bottle from time to time, and store for about 1 month, which I have been doing. Anyway, the month will be up on the 7th, but the liquid is not quite the perfect black color I am used to in the store-bought extract. (it is black towards the bottom, dark brown toward the top) Is this normal? Will it be black when I do the final straining through the sieve and cheesecloth? Any ideas?

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Old 11-02-2004, 10:19 AM   #2
 
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I have not tried this yet, but from what I have read, the vanilla will increase in flavor as time goes on. I don't think the color means much.
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Old 11-02-2004, 11:34 AM   #3
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My interpretation is that you’re making a vanilla infusion – not an extract. You’ve no doubt seen flavoured vodkas – in which, e.g., the peel of fruit has been steeped in neutral vodka for some time. Herb vodkas and spiced vodkas (including a pepper vodka flavoured with either chillies or peppercorns) are also marketed.

Commercial vanilla extract is made by means of a recirculated percolation process. Each batch must be tested assiduously and standardized since all vanilla beans are not alike in flavour. Nevertheless, in order to make a successful batch of “vanilla essence” at home, the most assured result will probably derive from this procedure:

Split the vanilla beans lengthwise (say, 4 or 5 good-quality pods) and insert them into a bottle of unflavoured Vodka (for the sake of your wallet, don’t use a premium brand such as Grey Goose!). Recap the bottle, and allow it to sit at room temperature (in direct sunlight, when possible) for at least 3, perhaps as long as 5 weeks. Shake the bottle fairly vigorously every few days.

When the Vodka has acquired a deep amber colour, strain it through a double thickness of cotton muslin or cheesecloth into a bowl.

In a saucepan, make a simple syrup. Allow the syrup to cool, then add the vanilla-flavoured Vodka. Pour this combined mixture into a sterilized glass bottle; cover with a screw cap, and allow it to stand at room temp. for about 1 month.

Culinary experts agree that REAL vanilla extract is worth the price you pay. The seemingly high cost is due to the fermentation & curing process. Still, if your are thoroughly satisfied with your maceration of a vanilla beans in Vodka (or even brandy), then you have good reason to continue the enterprise. You will be able to take justifiable pride in your uniquely created flavoring.

To address your question re color of the product: That is, of course, irrelevant to a determination of quality. Synthetic vanilla made from courmarin may be the same color as the pure extract. However, would you use a dark rum instead of vodka? Then you’d have your black “extract” for sure!

Finally, the dark bottles in which commercial vanilla is usually marketed, are actually not essential to its preservation. The glass itself is the important factor: Vanilla will keep indefinitely when stored in glass as long as it is not exposed to extreme cold or heat.
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Old 11-02-2004, 12:52 PM   #4
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Konditor -
How much simple syrup do you use? Is it a 1:1 ratio?

Thank you so much for your help - I really enjoy reading your postings,
and have learned so much!
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Old 11-02-2004, 01:39 PM   #5
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Errgh. I don't like the sound of this. If it will be inferior in quality to store-bought extract, then my time has been wasted. BAH.
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Old 11-02-2004, 03:50 PM   #6
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Tis never a waste if a lesson is gleaned....
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Old 11-02-2004, 05:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
How much simple syrup do you use? Is it a 1:1 ratio?
JKath: If you were to make a vanilla infusion in the alcohol base w/out adding the simple syrup, the product would have an intense level of flavoring – so you would need to use it accordingly. Some people have used straight bourbon whisky rather than vodka. But, using a sweetened infusion might produce more of a vanilla cordial than an infusion, wouldn’t you agree? I suspect that a top-quality dark mellow rum would be ideal.

As to the amt. of simple syrup to make, let’s say a 1½ cups sugar + ¾ cup water ratio per bottle of alcohol (although it necessarily will be very much a matter of personal preference). A good reference to read is Vanilla Cookbook by Patricia Rain, an authority on the subject.

Lemon Extract
1 lemon
½ cup vodka
¼ cup water.

Thinly peel 1 lemon with a vegetable peeler taking care not to include any pith. Dice the peel (about 2 Tbsp) and combine it with vodka and water. Strain when its achieved the desired potency.

Orange Extract

½ navel orange
¼ cup vodka
½ cup water

Thinly peel ½ navel orange with a vegetable peeler taking care not to include any pith and cut the peel into chunks (about 1½ Tbsp). Combine with vodka and water.
Quote:
Errgh. I don't like the sound of this. If it will be inferior in quality to store-bought extract, then my time has been wasted. BAH.
Jasonr: My purpose was not to dissuade you utterly from making your own vanilla infusion! However, I must admit that I'm skeptical about homemade infusions approximating the sheer consistent quality of brands such as Vanilla from Tahiti, K.C. Jurchak, Faerie’s Finest, Nielsen-Massey, and Jogue (1, 2, and 3-fold).

An analogous comment: Last weekend I enjoyed two different ales from the Wychwood brewery in Oxfordshire. I cannot ever expect that anyone would be able to brew a batch of beer in their basement to compare even remotely to the smoothness & depth of flavor delivered by those superb British ales. The point being: the making of some products are best left to the expertise of gifted professionals. (After all, is it mere coincidence that brewers in Europe have masters' degrees in beer-making?)
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Old 11-02-2004, 05:33 PM   #8
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K -
Thank you so much for this information -
I feel like I should be paying tuition!
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Old 11-02-2004, 06:24 PM   #9
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"Jasonr: My purpose was not to dissuade you utterly from making your own vanilla infusion! However, I must admit that I'm skeptical about homemade infusions approximating the sheer consistent quality of brands such as Vanilla from Tahiti, K.C. Jurchak, Faerie’s Finest, Nielsen-Massey, and Jogue (1, 2, and 3-fold)."

Wo... hold on a sec. When I said store-bought, I wasn't referring to top-quality extract from Tahitian beans. (I have never even seen Tahitian vanilla extract, though I do know a place that sells the Tahitian beans themselves) I was referring to the Club House stuff you get in the grocery store, which I assume use cheaper Madagascar beans. Will my home-made infusion be as good as that? (I used Smirnoff Vodka and Madagascar beans)
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Old 11-03-2004, 07:12 AM   #10
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Jason: As you've seen in my previous entries, there are a lot of variables to consider when making a domestic batch of flavouring. You'll likely know what modifications to include after the first run.

I haven't used supermarket brands, such as Club House, so I can't reasonably comment on any comparative degree of quality. Yet, in my experience, vanilla is almost invariably a product that satisifes according to the price paid. Will you be using the homemade vanilla infusion primarily for your domestic cooking? In cooking largely for others, one has to keep in mind the guideline of "average taste." Some people have a wider range of acceptance & appreciation for flavorings than the majority of diners.

Trusting that you'll have a great continuance of success in your kitchen....

Best regards,
Lawrence
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