When I was a kid I was confused by the term “artificial vanilla”. I thought either it was vanilla or it wasn’t, as simple as that. Well like most things in life it wasn’t as easy as that. I did not understand organic chemistry and the whole concept of flavour esters. Like any kid, I thought vanilla was something that made the pancakes taste better. It wasn’t until I was much older that I came across a vanilla bean. Each bean comes from an orchid that is hand pollinated, hand picked and then heated to kill the bean, sweated to develop flavour, dried to concentrate flavour, and then cured by aging. All this labour results in vanilla being the second most expensive spice in the world. Only saffron is more. So the real question of the day is: how do you take an ugly black wrinkled bean and make it into the liquid we use in baking and ice-cream? It’s actually very simple. You soak it in alcohol.
What you need:
- 2-3 vanilla beans
- 1-2 cups of vodka (any alcohol will work, I am in the process of creating some really nice vanilla from bourbon)
How it’s done:
- Take the beans and split them in half or break them up. This increases the surface area to come in contact with the alcohol.
- Place the beans and alcohol in a sealed jar or bottle and give it a good shake.
- Store for at least 2-3 months, shaking periodically. As time passes, you will gradually see the liquid darken.
- As you use the vanilla you can top it up with some more alcohol to basically create a never-ending supply.
Homemade vanilla is a real treat and is super simple. There is no excuse for you to purchase “artificial” anymore!