Making vanilla extract

Ian has posted his comprehensive instructions for making vanilla extract on Instructables.
200801021031Considering that the FDA regulates vanilla extract by bean weight and not bean quality, you never know what you might be getting with manufactured products. Your vanilla will be free of the artificial colors and vile corn sweeteners found in even high-quality vanilla extracts. Hand crafted vanilla extract is a great gift that will last a lifetime -- like a fine wine, vanilla extract matures with age.


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  2. I use vanilla about twice a week — for French toast.

    I love the idea of going to a great deal of trouble of making something yourself — even if it isn’t as good as store bought!

  3. Perhaps the average person only uses vanilla extract 4 to 6 times a year, but surely bOINGbOING readers are not average? I know I use mine pretty often, and buying the special Madagascar variety from The Baker’s Catalogue gets expensive. This recipe is pretty exciting to ME.

  4. I use vanilla every day – we keep an eyedropper bottle next to the coffee pot, and add a few drops to the grounds before brewing. It adds a richness without a strong vanilla taste. I’ll give the recipe a try, when I can find the time (and the counter space).

  5. I love the idea of this and I really appreciated the instructor name-dropping where he got his beans. Their prices are unbelievably good compared to a spice catalog/website I’ve used in the past. I used vanilla at least once a week, more if I’m baking and I love to bake. Organic vanilla, for a 2-oz bottle cost me $6.89. :choke:

  6. Alton Brown did an excellent episode of Good Eats about vanilla that was very enlightening and made me think that making your own extract is the way to go. If you’re not going to make it yourself, at least avoid buying Mexican vanilla extracts as most of them are made with and extract of the tonka bean called Courmarin. Courmarin is a super toxic carcinogen, and can also cause liver damage.

  7. Um, two data points:

    * Cooks Illustrated (what kind of food geek are you if you don’t know about Cooks Illustrated?) did a taste test and couldn’t tell the difference between artificial and real vanilla extract in anything cooked, and only a marginal difference otherwise. That’s ARTIFICIAL vs. REAL, not real storebought vs. real homemade.

    * Vanilla beans are really expensive, and the beans are far more potent than extract.

    Isn’t this a huge waste?

  8. According to Cook’s Illustrated magazine, “in a 1995 tasting of vanilla extracts, the results left us perplexed. Most participants in that tasting, including pastry chefs and baking experts, couldn’t tell the difference between imitation vanilla and the real thing: pure vanilla extract.

    Even though we have repeated that tasting and gotten the same results, we’ve never quite overcome our disbelief. So we’re back again, this time tasting eight different vanillas in plain yellow butter cake and crème anglaise, a simple vanilla-flavored custard sauce. The contestants ranged from inexpensive imitation flavors (bought at a drugstore) to supermarket and boutique pure vanilla extracts that cost eight times as much. Confidently, we gathered over piles of cake and plate after plate of custard sauce and challenged our taste buds to recognize the differences that we knew must be there.

    Let’s cut to the chase: It happened again.”

    The best buy was CVS (yes the drugstore) Premium Imitation Vanilla – $0.99 for a whopping 8oz bottle.

  9. Ah, but flavor is not the only hindrance. Health should be a major concern for anyone, and I have a healthy disrespect for anything artificial.

  10. He didn’t say “artificial”. He said “imitation”. It could still be completely natural. Imitation vanilla is typically made by extracting the same compound (vanillin) found in authentic vanilla from another natural but more abundant source, such as oak. The same thing we use to naturally flavor wonderful things like whiskey and wine.

    I still buy the real stuff though. You may not be able to tell the difference after you cook it, but in raw things, the difference is noticeable. The fragrance is distinctly different.

  11. Yes, I, too, avoid anything tainted by human ingenuity. I subsist entirely on fruits and nuts which have fallen to the ground. It’s the only way to make sure the food is pure. I understand some of my colleagues have taken to inserting a blade of grass into an ant hill and licking up the ants produced upon extraction, but this seems like sheer folly to me.

    If it’s ants you want, first you must lie under a fruit tree and wait for a fruit to fall in your mouth. You may need to wait a few more days before it rots enough to attract the ants, but your patience will be rewarded with a string of nutritious visitors crawling right into your mouth, as nature intended.

    All these technological “quick fixes” are sure to lead to disaster and the end of the species itself!

  12. I’ve considered making my own extract in the past, but I’ve always been put off by the high cost of the beans.

    But, recently, I was pointed towards ebay vanilla beans, which seem ridiculously cheap. Like, about 15 dollars for 1/4 pound of Madagascar Bourbon beans, cheap.

    Has anyone had any experience with buying these from ebay sellers? I wonder if they were grown on old toxic waste sites or mass graves or something equally atrocious.

  13. Why not using the best vanilla in the world.
    It’s growing here, in huahine ou tahaa in french polynesia.
    nothing can be compared to the unique taste of this vanilla.
    it’s very expensive, but it’s unique
    about 11 $ the bean.

  14. Independent tests have shown that most people perfer artificial vanilla extract to real. Go figure. That flavor, caused by vanilan, is found in large amounts in oak. My wood shop always has a toasted vanilla smell from white oak. Vanilan can be extracted from wood fiber.

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