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Chances are that if you cook or bake at all you have used vanilla in at least one of its many forms. But, have you ever wondered how vanilla extract is made? Vanilla is one of the easiest ingredients to make yourself at home with only a few ingredients and a bit of time.
A vanilla bean isn't actually a bean at all. It's the fruit of orchids in the genus Vanilla.
Vanilla extract—the kind that says “pure” on the label—is made by soaking the beans in an alcohol solution. The vanilla bean's color and flavor leech out into the alcohol creating an intensely flavorful liquid that you can use to flavor your recipes.
Vanilla is a climbing orchid vine that produces a pod that looks a lot like a string bean.
Carefully, use a paring knife to make a slit down the pod’s length, leaving one end intact. Gently open the sides to expose the grainy seeds inside. Using light pressure, drag the flat side of the knife down the pod, removing the seeds.
The vanilla bean crops must be cured and dried after harvest; from beginning to end the process takes a solid year. Next to saffron, vanilla is the most labor-intensive crop in the world which is why it's such an incredibly expensive ingredient.
– Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans (the most popular.) – Tahitian vanilla beans. – Mexican vanilla beans.
Gather the ingredients and the equipment necessary to make extract. All of the items are listed for you in the prinatble recipe card below.
Gently open the sides to expose the grainy seeds inside. Using light pressure, drag the flat side of the knife down the pod, removing the seeds.
Use a pairing knife to slice through each of the vanilla bean pods leaving one end intact to hold.
Transfer both the empty pods and the seeds to sterilized jars with tight fitting lids.
Soak for at least eight weeks, but preferably 6-12 months, shake every day (or as often as you remember).
Use a funnel to fill the jar with desired alcohol. I typically use vodka because I keep it on hand, but you could use a grain alcohol like Everclear or even bourbon.