Informed Papa was given a couple of bottles of alcohol as corporate gifts for Christmas last year. We aren’t big drinkers so I repurposed the grog into something more useful for us. I made vanilla extract.
Here is how to do it. Get some vanilla beans and slice them each in half lengthwise. I managed to get my hands on some organic vanilla beans for about 60c each through a co-op I am fortunate to be part of, but you can also get them at supermarkets and health food stores. After slicing, slide the beans into the bottles of alcohol. You may need to empty a bit of the alcohol first so it doesn’t overflow when the beans are added. I used a malt scotch whiskey and a white rum. As far I have read and know, you can use just about any liquor – the final product will take on some of the flavour of the base alcohol, so you may prefer to use something mild like vodka. I used what I had on hand so I didn’t need to outlay any extra money.
After adding the beans (about 20 per bottle – but it doesn’t matter too much, there is no exact science), add the lid/stopper and give it a good shake. Continue to shake it whenever you think to over the following weeks. The vanilla will continue to infuse the alcohol. By about three months your vanilla extract will be ready to use. You can see in the final picture how dark the alcohol becomes after a few months. There’s no real reason to remove the beans after three months. I leave mine in to continue infusing, resulting in a more concentrated extract.
Homemade vanilla extract makes a lovely gift. I have already given some away as part of a basket of homemade goodies. I found a small swing-top bottle and tipped some extract into it, along with one vanilla bean from the original bottle.
If you’re wondering the difference between vanilla extract and vanilla essence, the first is made with real vanilla beans while the latter is fake synthetic ingredients made to taste like vanilla. The extract doesn’t just taste better, it’s better for you!