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Old 12-03-2016, 06:36 AM   #1
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Homemade vanilla extract

I wasn't sure where to post this, but desserts seemed to fit best.

I've made homemade vanilla extract by cutting vanilla beans in half and soaking them in a small amount of vodka for 6 mo. with mixed results.

I'm wondering has anyone done this with rum or bourbon before, and are your results worth using a different kind of liquor for the tincture?

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Old 12-03-2016, 07:02 AM   #2
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I've used all three and prefer to use light rum.

I also like to use a little booze in frosting, in place of vanilla extract. Try a little, rum, bourbon or cognac they are all good. Rum is especially nice in the frosting for an applesauce or carrot cake.

I believe the use of a little booze came before the common use of vanilla extract in this country. Those old episodes of the Walton's where Livie and Esther added a touch of "the recipe" to the cake batter were standard procedure in kitchens across America.

Another great combination is the Italian Fiori di Sicilia. It is a faint combination of vanilla extract and citrus flavor that can be achieved by adding lemon or orange zest and vanilla extract to a cake batter or by buying the extract in an Italian specialty shop. In this area it is the secret ingredient to great half-moon cookies, Italian butter cookies and pound cakes.

Good luck!
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Old 12-06-2016, 01:05 AM   #3
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I've used all three and prefer to use light rum.

I also like to use a little booze in frosting, in place of vanilla extract. Try a little, rum, bourbon or cognac they are all good. Rum is especially nice in the frosting for an applesauce or carrot cake.

I believe the use of a little booze came before the common use of vanilla extract in this country. Those old episodes of the Walton's where Livie and Esther added a touch of "the recipe" to the cake batter were standard procedure in kitchens across America.

Another great combination is the Italian Fiori di Sicilia. It is a faint combination of vanilla extract and citrus flavor that can be achieved by adding lemon or orange zest and vanilla extract to a cake batter or by buying the extract in an Italian specialty shop. In this area it is the secret ingredient to great half-moon cookies, Italian butter cookies and pound cakes.

Good luck!
I like where this is going.
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Old 12-06-2016, 07:42 AM   #4
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I recently saw organic vanilla bourbon extract in a grocery store so I would have to say it certainly has a market. Very expensive stuff, about 3x the price of real vanilla extract, whether it was the organic label or the bourbon or the combo though I don't know. Didn't buy it, just needed regular vanilla extract so can't comment on taste.
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Old 12-06-2016, 07:44 AM   #5
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Oh, I meant to add try grain alcohol instead of the vodka. We use grain alcohol to make homemade limoncello and amaretto sometimes. It doesn't add the taste that even expensive vodka does, and it's fairly cheap too. It's also got a higher alcohol percentage.
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Old 12-06-2016, 02:19 PM   #6
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I recently saw organic vanilla bourbon extract in a grocery store.

Are you sure it wasn't bourbon vanilla?
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Old 12-06-2016, 02:55 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by inchrisin View Post
I wasn't sure where to post this, but desserts seemed to fit best.

I've made homemade vanilla extract by cutting vanilla beans in half and soaking them in a small amount of vodka for 6 mo. with mixed results.

I'm wondering has anyone done this with rum or bourbon before, and are your results worth using a different kind of liquor for the tincture?
I did this years ago as every one seemed to be making their own vanilla from scratch on another food website. many things were discussed, several gave advice on where to buy large money saving bags of vanilla beans and I went forth with all comments and instructions. I did and still do have and use my own vanilla. one is steeped in Rum one is steeped in bourbon and the last is steeped in vodka, 3 different bottles with their own labels so I know them apart. I see no difference that is noteworthy to comment on. I did make a new batch a few weeks ago with spiced rum since that was all I had, no plain rum.
One thing I will say that I found helpful was after the beans have been in the liquid, snip off the ends so later you can squeeze the caviar out for a much more flavorful home made vanilla extract.
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Old 12-06-2016, 03:24 PM   #8
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Are you sure it wasn't bourbon vanilla?
Don't know, didn't really pay that much attention to it between the price and the fact that it had the word bourbon in it, since I wanted just plain pure vanilla extract and didn't want to pay a fortune either. The price tag was kind of a shocker considering I wasn't in Whole Foods or Fresh Market, just a regular grocery store.
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Old 12-06-2016, 04:10 PM   #9
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Bourbon vanilla is made from beans grown in Madigascar.


It's plain vanilla extract but some people say it's the best kind.


Vanilla prices shot way up this year.
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Old 12-07-2016, 03:23 AM   #10
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I read an interesting article on Serious Eats comparing real vanilla vs imitation vanilla. Their conclusion?

If you use vanilla regularly in baked goods like cookies and cakes, there's no reason to spring for the fancy stuff, or even the real stuff—artificial extract will do just fine. If you drink a lot of nog or make uncooked ice cream bases or cold desserts like panna cotta, you might consider buying real extract. But if all you've got on hand is artificial extract? Don't worry, just add a touch of booze to the mix (a teaspoon of vodka or bourbon for every teaspoon of extract works), and you'll do just fine.

To read the full article, click here: Taste Test: Is Better Vanilla Extract Worth the Price?
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Old 12-07-2016, 06:47 AM   #11
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I know what bourbon vanilla is. The packaging just made it seem as if it was vanilla extract made with bourbon. Again, didn't want to pay 3x the price of regular pure vanilla extract, nor did I want bourbon flavor so didn't even pick it up. Just wide-eyed at the price.

Oh, just a mention here. Several years ago, I grabbed a large box of the McCormick pure vanilla extract off the shelf, paid for it, took it home and put it away. When it came time to use it, discovered someone had switched the bottles and put in imitation vanilla extract so they wouldn't have to pay the price for the pure. From that time on, I have always opened the box to check and make sure it was actually pure in the box, and have found on rare occasion imitation in the box. So, check your boxes and buyer beware!
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Old 12-07-2016, 07:07 PM   #12
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I've used all three and prefer to use light rum.

I also like to use a little booze in frosting, in place of vanilla extract. Try a little, rum, bourbon or cognac they are all good. Rum is especially nice in the frosting for an applesauce or carrot cake.

I believe the use of a little booze came before the common use of vanilla extract in this country. Those old episodes of the Walton's where Livie and Esther added a touch of "the recipe" to the cake batter were standard procedure in kitchens across America.

Another great combination is the Italian Fiori di Sicilia. It is a faint combination of vanilla extract and citrus flavor that can be achieved by adding lemon or orange zest and vanilla extract to a cake batter or by buying the extract in an Italian specialty shop. In this area it is the secret ingredient to great half-moon cookies, Italian butter cookies and pound cakes.

Good luck!
As I'm reading your post that episode of The Walton's came to mind, then boom! there it was I remember how scandalous they thought it was.

I really like a bit of cognac or brandy in my vanilla cakes.
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Old 12-07-2016, 07:12 PM   #13
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I read an interesting article on Serious Eats comparing real vanilla vs imitation vanilla. Their conclusion?

If you use vanilla regularly in baked goods like cookies and cakes, there's no reason to spring for the fancy stuff, or even the real stuff—artificial extract will do just fine. If you drink a lot of nog or make uncooked ice cream bases or cold desserts like panna cotta, you might consider buying real extract. But if all you've got on hand is artificial extract? Don't worry, just add a touch of booze to the mix (a teaspoon of vodka or bourbon for every teaspoon of extract works), and you'll do just fine.

To read the full article, click here: Taste Test: Is Better Vanilla Extract Worth the Price?
If you go for a quality imitation like McCormick or Watkins for instance, I totally agree that it makes little to no difference in many baked goods. But as Serious Eats says, the good stuff has its place.
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Old 12-09-2016, 10:24 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by inchrisin View Post
I wasn't sure where to post this, but desserts seemed to fit best.

I've made homemade vanilla extract by cutting vanilla beans in half and soaking them in a small amount of vodka for 6 mo. with mixed results.

I'm wondering has anyone done this with rum or bourbon before, and are your results worth using a different kind of liquor for the tincture?
I made mine with gin by mistake (note to self - Read the label!) Worked well and didn't overpower the vanilla.

Mine wasn't as strong as commercial vanilla extract but definitely better than the horrid tasting synthetic vanilla essence and certainly cheaper than proper vanilla extract. When I've bought it in the past I've always gone for Neilsen- Massey vanilla extract in the brown bottle. Expensive but you don't need a lot and it tastes good. My last bottle lasted over a year.

Bourbon vanilla is named for the period when the island of Réunion (where vanilla was grown) was ruled by the Bourbon kings of France; it does not contain Bourbon whiskey.

Artificial vanilla flavouring (called "essence" in the UK) contains vanillin, a synthetic compound derived from wood.

Read the label to be sure you're getting the real McCoy.
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Old 12-09-2016, 10:36 AM   #15
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I read an interesting article on Serious Eats comparing real vanilla vs imitation vanilla. Their conclusion?

If you use vanilla regularly in baked goods like cookies and cakes, there's no reason to spring for the fancy stuff, or even the real stuff—artificial extract will do just fine. If you drink a lot of nog or make uncooked ice cream bases or cold desserts like panna cotta, you might consider buying real extract. But if all you've got on hand is artificial extract? Don't worry, just add a touch of booze to the mix (a teaspoon of vodka or bourbon for every teaspoon of extract works), and you'll do just fine.

To read the full article, click here: Taste Test: Is Better Vanilla Extract Worth the Price?
Sorry, CG, I can't agree with you about artificial vanilla. it doesn't compare with the real extract (in the UK the real stuff is called "extract" while the artificial is called "essence" (legal description).

"Essence" is nasty and I'm with Ina Garten when she says "good" vanilla, meaning the real stuff.

As I've said before, artificial vanilla essence contains vanillin, made either from a byproduct of the wood pulp industry. Neither the artificial or the real versions are obtained from beavers back ends despite what the internet tells you


"Don't spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar" as my granny used to say.
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Old 12-09-2016, 11:39 AM   #16
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Sorry, CG, I can't agree with you about artificial vanilla. it doesn't compare with the real extract (in the UK the real stuff is called "extract" while the artificial is called "essence" (legal description).

"Essence" is nasty and I'm with Ina Garten when she says "good" vanilla, meaning the real stuff.

As I've said before, artificial vanilla essence contains vanillin, made either from a byproduct of the wood pulp industry. Neither the artificial or the real versions are obtained from beavers back ends despite what the internet tells you


"Don't spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar" as my granny used to say.

Sorry to say but I totally and completely disagree

My palate agrees with Cooks Illustrated and Serious eats when it comes to vanilla.
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Old 12-10-2016, 11:13 AM   #17
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Sorry to say but I totally and completely disagree

My palate agrees with Cooks Illustrated and Serious eats when it comes to vanilla.
I've read a few tests and they all pretty much echo each other. There should be no shame in using artificial if that's what your budget permits since nobody will be able to tell anyway.

I grew up on the fake stuff, and it wasn't until adulthood and Food Network telling me to that I started buying the real stuff. I can't say that I see a real difference.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion!
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Old 12-11-2016, 05:59 AM   #18
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I bought a bottle of rum to make vanilla extract...can you help me up? (hic)
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Old 12-12-2016, 08:59 AM   #19
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Sorry to say but I totally and completely disagree

My palate agrees with Cooks Illustrated and Serious eats when it comes to vanilla.
OK, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

Remind me not to consult Cooks Illustrated, whatever that is.
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Old 12-12-2016, 09:00 AM   #20
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I bought a bottle of rum to make vanilla extract...can you help me up? (hic)
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