The Queen of Beans: Homemade Vanilla Bean Extract


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Makes about 1 cup

Most pure vanilla extract is about 35 percent alcohol. It’s easy to make your own version, although it won’t have quite as intense a flavor as commercial brands. Vodka will allow the most vanilla bean flavor to come through. However, I often make mine with brandy or rum because I like the flavor. Experiment to see what you like best. The recipe is easily halved.

• 2 or 3 vanilla beans
• 8 ounces of vodka, rum or brandy

1. Cut vanilla beans in half crosswise. Put them into a clean, dark, 8-ounce glass bottle (I save my old vanilla extract bottles for this purpose). Using a funnel, pour alcohol into the bottle. Cap and shake for a minute or two. Label and date the bottle. Place in a cool place out of direct light.

2. The extract should be shaken once a day, at least for the first week. You can use it after a week, but it is best after 3 or 4 weeks. The longer it sits, the more intense the flavor. While commercial vanilla extract has the beans removed, I leave the beans in the bottle and as I use the extract, I top it off with more alcohol.

Susan Belsinger is a culinary herbalist and author of several cooking and gardening books. Her most recent contribution to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s All-Region Guide is now available in Designing an Herb Garden (Sterling Publishing, 2004).

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