Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to Make the Best Vanilla Extract - Great Gift Giving!

Making your own vanilla extract is a great way to make neat gifts for others while enjoying your own “stash.” Vanilla extract is made with a low proof vodka but some people make it with rum. Before you “think it,” just know a higher proof alcohal does not render a deeper extract from the bean. The formula needs some water to act as a “solvent” to the bean. Water is a little known solvent. Real connoisseurs of vanilla extracts will make a few variations to have their own “collection” such as one with a vodka base and another with a rum base.

It takes a good six months to have a dark quality vanilla and a year to have the maximum richness a vanilla bean can offer. So, you may want to start in January of each year your gifts for the following December. Beyond vanilla beans, attractive bottles and little funnels may be the only primary components you may want to secure to make your own vanilla extract. To make for gifts you can create a “hang tag” with a business card folded in half, whatever story or graphics you want on it, and a string through it. Regarding the use of colored bottles, I personally do not feel a colored bottle makes a difference over a clear bottle. It needs to be stored in a cool dark place and the color of the glass has no impact. However, glass is important as plastics in circulation are having endless questions come up – specifically with phthalates.

Commercial vanilla extract is usually 35% alcohal and the rest water and propylene glycol. The purpose of the alcohal is most likely for preservative value. 13.5 ounces of vanilla beans are used to make a gallon of normal strength on the grocery shelf kind of extract. This means to make five fold you can do 13.5 ounces of vanilla beans to 25 ounces of alcohal. You can also vary your beans like I do. I order them from all over the world to make a “blend.” Mexican vanilla is outrageously priced because it competes with the “tourist” vanilla beans it becomes not worth the price. Fake vanilla, the clear stuff, is made with resins from trees.

In regards to vanilla beans around the home as a raw material-you can do many other projects. Stick a few beans in your sugar to make “Vanilla sugar.” In fact, if I was making vanilla extract as a gift I would probably package it up with a canister of vanilla sugar. Vanilla beans can also go into honey and permeate that over time.

The way to prepare you vanilla beans for extract and other infusions such as vanilla sugar is to slit them all of the way up so the beans inside are exposed. There is no way to make vanilla extract without alcohal or it would not be called an “extract.” You can, however, focus more on vanilla sugar or honey if your religious preferences forbid any kind of alcohal.
SOURCE: I get most of my beans on e-Bay from "VanillaProducts" I find they are very competitive and offer a great variety of fresh beans.

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