Sunday, February 21, 2010

Real Vanilla Extract: An Experiment

This weekend I received a unique and delicious early birthday gift -- organic bourbon vanilla beans! I always try to eat mostly locally, but when exotics are needed, it is great if they are organic. These vanilla beans were purchased lovingly for me from The Spice Trader on Queen West in Toronto, and they came with this handy information printed on the package:

Bourbon beans come from the Vanilla Planifolia orchid. These sumptuous beans are cultivated in Papua New Guinea and are cured using the natural sun dried process, which takes 3 to 6 months. They have a creamy, mellow, sweet flavour and are full of vanillin. They are used when you want a lingering vanilla flavour finish!

With the direction of my gift-giver (who also happens to be a fabulous from-scratch cook and baker) I will be making my own vanilla extract by using the following method:

Find yourself some vanilla beans, and one 13 oz. bottle of vodka, preferably Absolut.

Split the vanilla beans down the middle with a knife, making sure to leave the tops still connected.

It will look like this when you are finished.

Place the vanilla beans into the bottle of vodka.

Close the cap tightly and store the bottle in a cool, dark place for 8 weeks.

To be continued! In the time it takes for the vanilla and vodka to make magic, I hope to learn more about vanilla beans and the different types, different methods for at-home vanilla extract, and the truth about what is in artificial vanilla extract and how it differs from real vanilla extract. If you have any information on any of the above, please comment and share your knowledge, it is always welcome.

Have an absolutely sweet week,


  1. I made a similar gift for a friend recently, Limoncello! You follow the same process: the zest from about 15 lemons and put them in the CHEAPEST bottle of vodka you can find! After about 6 weeks, add simple syrup to taste. YUM!