15 Sep 2014

Experiment 001 : Vanilla Extracts

I love the idea of making everything from scratch and I can proudly attach a "homemade" tag on them.
This obsession is great for me because it keeps me interested and curious- which is very important since I am a hardcore Gemini, things bore me quiet easily, but yet it slows me down when it comes to the efficiency of the whole cooking process.
I must admit, buying things such as a frozen puff pastry or pizza dough is very convenient and I used them quiet a few times.
No shame, because it's easy, time efficient and taste good.

 But there is always something at the back of my head that keep on saying
"Try making it from scratch .."
"Make one yourself, dumdum"
"Premade stuff again? Aww hell naww"

I have a few things on my DIY food list.
And currently, the number one thing on my list is : Vanilla Extract.

Now that I'm intensively learning how to bake, I finally know the difference between vanilla extract and vanilla essence.
When I was little, I didn't even know which one did my mom use at home and I didn't complain.
But since now I know that vanilla essence are made out of mostly chemicals, I switched to pure vanilla extract which are made by -you guessed it- extracting real vanilla pods.

So out of curiosity and determination, I purchased a package of vanilla beans from Heilala Vanilla when I was in Melbourne last June. Heilala Vanilla is a well known company from New Zealand producing premium quality vanilla products.
It took me days to actually reason myself with the purchase that I was about to make.
The 100gr vanilla pods pack comes at $29.95 AUD + around $5 for the shipping (since stores that carry this brand doesn't stock their 100gr variant), which is $35 in total cost.
It was a splurge for me, especially if you compare it to the price of vanilla extracts and essence that can be found in supermarkets. But this is a premium vanilla product, so I have to somehow compare it to other premium brands such as Nielsen Massey or Wilton.

I had bottles of unopened Vodkas in Jakarta and none of my family member actually drink. Except my dad and I. But he drinks wine and I mostly drink Gin & Tonic so I think it'll be great for me to use them for my experiment.
I will be using 4-5 pods for every bottle of extract and 250 ml of Vodka. Which means that from that $35 vanilla package, I could get 5 bottles of 250ml vanilla extract. PLUS, I can make some vanilla sugar out of the leftover pods.
So economically speaking, the final products of this experiment will last for a long time!
The only downside is that I have to be really patient.  These things need to be extracted for a few good weeks (even months) to really get the flavor out of those plump vanilla pods. But I don't mind.. As long as I get great results, i think it's going to be worth the wait. I also purchased a tiny bottle of Nielsen Massey's Vanilla Extract, just to make sure I have one to bake with while I'm waiting for the homemade one to be ready.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
Makes 1 (250ml) bottle of extract

Ingredients & Tools:
  • 4-5 plump vanilla beans (mine is Heilala Vanilla Pods)
  • Approximately  (250ml) alcohol with minimum 35% alcohol rate (I used Vodka)
  • Glass Bottle with a cap / cork 
  • a Knife
  • a funnel
1. First of all, measure the height of your vanilla beans and make sure that it fits the bottle that you're about to use. If the bottle is smaller, just cut the beans into half to fit the bottle. 
2. Slit open the beans with your knife, scrape the 'caviar'. Put both (pods and 'caviar') into the glass bottle
3. Carefully fill the bottle with vodka using a funnel and make sure that all the pods are covered with vodka. 
4. Have a quick shake and store it in a dark cool place (such as your kitchen cupboard, or anywhere else as long as its away from the sun). Store it for minimum 6-8 weeks. Give it a shake once a week and just let it steep. Soon it will looses some of its boozy smell and transformed into a vanilla smelling dark amber colored liquid. Use as needed.

This extract is like wine. The longer you keep it, the more intense and awesome it gets. 
I have read that some people leave their extracts for years and they simply top it off with more vodka when used and even put more leftover vanilla pods to intensify the extract. 
This thing is pretty much like an endless supply of premium vanilla extract. 


It has been 13 weeks since I made the extract and voila! 
Look at that sexy bottle of pure awesomeness!

I got this retro homemade vanilla extract label from CherylStyle website, so thank you so much for sharing !

The color of the liquid has truly transformed into a mystically dark amber and the vanilla smell has developed quiet strongly.
There is a reason why we need to shake the bottle at least once in a week because the vanilla seeds are sinking at the bottom of the bottle most of the time, so by giving it a shake, it helps them to contribute their flavor into the liquid.

I am not going to use this just yet, I want to make sure that it is extracted to its fullest, so I'm going to give it more time. My goal is by the end of the year. Still a long way to go but I'm sure it's going to be worth the wait!

Have you ever make your own extracts?

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