A Little Experiment…

Did you know you can make your own vanilla?

Pure vanilla extract is expensive because the vanilla beans come from a specific type of vanilla orchid and have to be harvested by hand (no wonder!)

I don’t like the artificial taste of the imitation stuff. Here is what about.com had to say about it:

Imitation vanilla is made from artificial flavorings, most of which come from wood byproducts and often contain chemicals. Discerning palates find the imitation vanilla products to have a harsh quality with a bitter aftertaste. Twice as much imitation vanilla flavoring is required to match the strength of pure vanilla extract”.

Since I bake from scratch fairly often and am starting to run low, I thought I would give it a try.

All you need is a glass jar with a screwtop lid, a couple of vanilla beans, some vodka and time.

To begin, run a sharp knife along the length of the vanilla bean keeping the pod end intact. Note that you don’t want to cut it completely in half, you just want to expose those beautiful flavorful vanilla seeds:

Do the same with the other vanilla bean and put them both in a clean glass jar with a screwtop lid.

Next, pour in two cups of vodka (you’ll need to use at least 80 proof):

Make sure that the vanilla beans are completely covered. Replace the lid and write the date on the jar with a permanent marker.

Now comes the not-so-fun part:  Waiting. I checked several sites and the time to wait varied from one to six months. I’m going to check the progress after one month, though I bet it will be ready to use as early as six weeks.

Make sure to store it in a cool, dry, dark place (how about near my rolling pin where it won’t be disturbed much!):

The cool thing about pure vanilla extract as opposed to imitation is that it lasts indefinitely (just be sure that the vanilla beans are completely covered with the liquid). And you can keep adding new vanilla beans as you use the vanilla in baking. (I filed this information under the category, “Good to know”).

Here is the cost breakdown:

  • two vanilla beans, $2.99 at World Market
  • 750 ML of vodka (80 proof), $5.98
  • glass jar, free

Which comes to $8.97 for two cups of pure vanilla, or $0.56 an ounce.

When I searched online, the price for pure vanilla varied greatly per ounce between $0.55 (Tone’s brand, $9.04 for a 16 oz plastic bottle) to $0.99 (Neilson-Massey brand, $31.79 for a 32 oz bottle) to $8.29 (McCormick brand, $8.29 for a one ounce bottle). I searched amazon.com for “pure vanilla extract” on 8/1/11. I did not factor in shipping costs.

Turns out it may not be much cheaper to make your own if you search the sales and can score free shipping. But for just a little bit of work, I thought it would be a fun little experiment to try, nonetheless.

I’ll give you an update in about a month or so to show you how it’s coming along:)

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Published in: on August 1, 2011 at 11:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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