Quality Madagascar vanilla beans, bourbon in one bottle and vodka in the other, and the experiment begins. If all goes well, in six months we’ll have two excellent bottles of double-strength vanilla extract for our Christmas pies and confections.
Even when perfectly good store-bought products are available, we are fascinated by how various foods are actually made. For excellent vanilla extract, we know of no better than Penzeys Spices double strength. But we wanted to give making our own a go.
We purchased our Madagascar vanilla beans from Penzeys. For the bourbon and vodka, we went with two well-known makers – a bourbon we enjoy sipping and a vodka that’s fine in our bloody Mary’s.
There’s really nothing to creating your own vanilla extract. We had 15 long beans which we cut in half, split down the middle, and placed in old-fashioned bottles with tight seals.
Whether the subject is sherry for cooking or bourbon for vanilla extract, an oft-repeated axiom is “Don’t use anything you wouldn’t drink.” That’s good advice, on par with adding seasonings “to taste” in recipes. On one hand, this isn’t the place to use the finest bourbon one might drink; on the other hand, in our own experience we noticed a marked improvement in our sauces and sautés when we moved away from lower end sherries and upgraded to more drinkable varieties.
Once the vanilla beans and alcohol have been combined and sealed tight, it’s helpful to give the bottle a gentle shake from time to time to ensure mixing and full extraction. For the richest, most flavorful extract, allow six months to go by before opening.