Along with cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla is a quintessential ingredient to keep stocked in the cupboard this time of year. With a delicate and deeply enchanting flavor that's instantly recognizable, vanilla imparts a soft creaminess to desserts and cocktails that is nothing short of pure magic. (How about some Spiked Vanilla Bean Cocoa and Chai Spice Oatmeal Cookies to experience vanilla bliss?) Making your own vanilla extract at home is super easy and can be used in any recipe that calls for store-bought. All you need are two simple ingredients and a glass jar, or a few cork bottles if you want to make holiday gifts for friends.
Why are vanilla beans so precious?
Vanilla pods are the fruit of a stunning orchid (Vanilla planifolia) that's native to Central America. These ephemeral flowers open for just one day and each must be carefully hand-pollinated, since there’s only one bee known to pollinate them in the wild. After 9 months on the vine, the green vanilla orchid fruits are picked, graded by size, and bundled. At this point, they don't have that amazing vanilla scent or flavor we all love. The bundled beans are submerged in boiling water to stop the ripening process and start the natural production of vanillin. The blanched beans are wrapped in cloth and placed in wooden crates to sweat. Each day for three weeks, they are removed, unwrapped, and placed in the sun for several hours. After this curing process, the beans become wonderfully fragrant and turn black in color. The pods are then placed on drying racks and turned by hand every day for another three weeks before being wrapped and crated for an additional two months. Quite a process! We are so proud to offer these Fair Trade & Organic Certified Vanilla Beans that are expertly produced by our skilled farmers.
Easy Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe
3 - 5 whole Certified Organic Fair Trade Vanilla Beans
1 cup brandy, vodka, rum, or bourbon
Split vanilla beans lengthwise with a knife, leaving the seed pulp inside, and then chop into smaller pieces. (I like to leave one or two of the beans split down the middle for presentation, and then chop the rest.) Place vanilla beans in a glass jar, cover completely with alcohol of your choice, and cap tightly. Agitate the mixture by shaking the jar daily for 2-6 weeks. You can allow the vanilla beans to infuse longer, or add more vanilla beans to make a stronger extract.
Once the flavor of your extract has reached the desired strength, strain the vanilla beans out and bottle the resulting extract. To make the bottles even more alluring, you can insert a whole vanilla bean into each bottle. Vanilla extract will last indefinitely, and will become even more aromatic and flavorful as it ages. Homemade vanilla extract can be used just the same as vanilla extract from the store.