Making vanilla essence.

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Yesterday I was at a food fair in Brussels and I bought these fantastic pods in a glass tube; vanille bourbon de Madagascar. Payed 8 euro for 5 pods. Lovely soft pods, incredibly fragant.

A few years ago I made my own essence with a low quality quite tough vanillapod. Made it by cutting the pod in small bits and macerate them in wodka for a few month, then sieved it in a paper coffe filter. I use this bottle frequently, it keeps a nice smell. It goes in pannacotta and other deserts.

Why wodka? Well, imo wodka has no smell nor taste of it's own, it's ideal for making extracts.

My question is wether other members make vanilla essence and how you do it. Or, does anyone have suggestions to improve my simplistic method?

 
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A few years ago, I got hold of some good beans and decided to make some extract. I made several small batches using different alcohols, just to see what might come out of it. I ended up using brandy, bourbon, rum, and vodka. Of these, my favorite was the bourbon. While the vodka had the most clear vanilla flavor, the bourbon got extremely sweet and just seemed to add something to whatever I used it for. Let me qualify this, however, by stating that I love the taste of bourbon.
 
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We make our own vanilla essence always.  We buy high quality beans from an excellent supplier, paying far, far less than Chris did -- who was scalped, IMO. 

We make ours by using about a dozen beans in entire 750ml bottles of decent, dark rum (usually Brugal), or relatively inexpensive cognac or cognac-style brandy (Raynal, Christian Brothers VSOP) and/or vodka (Vodka of the Gods) -- all of which we get for around $10/bottle. 

I'm always careful to use a secret, family process for removing enough from each bottle so it won't overflow when the beans are added.

We find there's no need to cut the bean in pieces, as they're fully submerged in their bottles.  We do split them, though.  A bottle usually takes about 3 months to ripen, is roughly half as strong as commercial extract -- although we prefer ours to the very best of those.  They last about a year.

The rum and brandy based extracts are almost as versatile as those made with vodka. It's nice to have a choice.

BDL
 
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BDL, great supplier. I'm going to have to order some. Too bad it won't be ready for the holiday season. Do you have a preference when ordering beans from that site? It appears that the non-organics are essentially the same price.
 
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Their least expensive beans are very good, high-end bakery/restaurant quality.  They're probably the same type and quality Chris bought, although better dried. 

Tahitian beans have a little less flavor per bean, but a more complex aroma.  I'm not sure how much difference the jump to Tahitian makes -- probably none at all if you're going to make extract with them.  Nevertheless, it seems like the "middle path," and that's the road we usually take.

The Mexican beans are really, really good.  It's more a matter of vanilla flavor concentration than taste, but they do taste a little smoother. 

How worthwhile the differences are is complicated because even the Mexican beans are sold at lower prices than you usually see more ordinary vanilla pegged at.  For the ways most of use vanilla I'm not sure it makes enough of a difference to justify the difference.  You pickem.   

Why didn't I start a case of rum a couple of months ago for Hanukkah/Christmas presents?  What a putz!  What was I NOT thinking?  Order the vanilla now, hope Brugal or Flor de Cana is on sale somewhere, buy some pretty bottles, and print some "Do Not Open 'til Valentines Day" labels.  

Dayum.  Better late than never.

BTW, you can add a couple of fresh beans to an old 3/4 empty batch, give it some time, and just keep it going.  Part of the reason it's worthwhile to have a few bottles going at a time.

BDL
 
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Order the vanilla now, hope Brugal or Flor de Cana is on sale somewhere, and print some "Do Not Open 'til Valentines Day" labels.  
That looks like where I'm headed. Have you ever tried making vanilla essence with Cruzan rum? It's what I typically drink, is very reasonably priced (about $11-12 for 750mL for the cheap stuff and about $28-30 for single barrel), and what I used the last time I had vanilla beans.
 
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Never made vanilla with it, no.  But have drunk it and completely agree with you.  We have a couple of nearby  (Mexican oriented) supers who always have excellent prices on Flor de Cana and/or Brugal, so those are our usual cooking choices.   Why those rums?  There's certainly nothing particularly Mexican about them, and they cost more everywhere else. The salesman, perhaps?

Lots of good rum choices.  The main thing is to get something more complex and better tasting than the overpriced and overrated basic Bacardi and Meyer's. 

Linda doesn't like bourbon, so we don't use it in food.  I do, so we don't waste it in food.  Can I get a "hallelujah?"  Where's KY when we need him?

BDL
 
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BDL, I'm looking for a procedure to get the vanilla seeds in the solution too. Maybe just splitting the beans as you suggested may work better. I do hope the extract last much longer than a year! The batch I already made is probably more than 2 years old. A high alcohol percentage is certainly required.

Don't know if I payed too much, you know, this is very high quality vanilla from Madagascar, very fresh soft beans.

I prefer wodka for it's neutral taste and smell. Well, actually I hate wodka for consumption, so pointless. Don't know why people like to drink that.

Using Brugal? I was in the Dominican Republic a few times and visited the factory (...and got my first symptomes of heart rythm disfunction during my first trip, while climbing the "27 charcos" of the Damajagua river, without any safety equipment at that time. Thought I was dying!).

Anyway, Brugal is very nice rum, I still have a very small bit of Brujal Extra viejo, Gran Reserva Familiar.
 
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Linda doesn't like bourbon, so we don't use it in food.  I do, so we don't waste it in food.  Can I get a "hallelujah?"  Where's KY when we need him?
I'll oblige. Hallelujah for bourbon.

Any particular bourbon you fancy?

 
 
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Probably last forever as long as you keep the beans covered.  I meant we use ours up in a year, and should have been clearer. 

Sounds like you had quite an adventure.  Hope your heart is well. 

I love the depth and complexity of a good, old rum.  It's as good as cognac, but (fortunately) a lot less expensive.

BDL
 
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Yeah, there's still a pricetag on my Brugal bottle dating from... 2002, which contains approx. 1 liter; 172 Dominican pesos. I would guess 4 euro!!!
 
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i don't know from anything about making vanilla essence, but i do make kahlua using fresh vanilla beans(either mexican or madagascar), espresso, sugar and of course vodka...what op said they don't know why people drink vodka...are you kidding? if you've ever had a perfect martini you would know why...goes straight to the brain center...yo!...the kahlua takes about 3 to 5 weeks to do its thing before being drinkable....i also add a wee bit of spiced rum to it, just cuz...also, i like barbancourt rum out of haiti...

joey 
 
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   I really like the idea of giving them away as Christmas presents.  To bad there's not enough time...I hope to remember for next year.  

   BDL, is this secret family process of making room in the bottles something only you and your family members can perform.  Boy, I wonder if those in my family could perform such a procedure???

   /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif,

  dan
 
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this secret family process of making room in the bottles something only you and your family members can perform.   
When I was in school, we would perform a similar secret procedure before football games for luck. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
 
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It's also very common to recycle the used pods after they were sliced open deseeded and cooked in milk for deserts for instance. Simply dry them and put in a jar of sugar. You will soon have the best vanilla sugar ever.
 
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   Ok...so I don't get it.

  Open a bottle of vodka, in order to make room for the vanilla beans you must then drink some in order to make room, ok.  Lastly, place the split vanilla beans in the empty bottle for three to four months.

  Ok...I'll give it a try /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif

   on a serious note...I really do like this idea and may still do it for a late New Years gift this year.  Then readjust my timing for next year.

   thanks all,

 dan
 
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We're now some 2 months later and my new essence starts to look good. It's again in wodka, 500 cl to be precise, which was cristal clear when I started. I slit the pods lenghtwise this time before putting them into the bottle. The bottle is resting flat on a central heating radiator and gets a good daily shake. Many black seeds have escaped from the pods now. I guess it would be ready by now, but I'm gonna let it on the radiator for another 2 months and see what happens. I still have some from another batch, so I'm not in a hurry.

 
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   Ok...so I don't get it.

  Open a bottle of vodka, in order to make room for the vanilla beans you must then drink some in order to make room, ok.  Lastly, place the split vanilla beans in the empty bottle for three to four months.

  Ok...I'll give it a try /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif

   on a serious note...I really do like this idea and may still do it for a late New Years gift this year.  Then readjust my timing for next year.

   thanks all,

 dan
Ya know that used to be my exact method of measuring as well  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/peace.gif   however as of this upcoming Monday I will have not touched a drop in an entire month ... I never realized just how much alcohol was used in pure vanilla extract but given how little it usually takes I don't think I really see a problem in using it now and again
 
 
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Ya know that used to be my exact method of measuring as well  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/peace.gif   however as of this upcoming Monday I will have not touched a drop in an entire month ... I never realized just how much alcohol was used in pure vanilla extract but given how little it usually takes I don't think I really see a problem in using it now and again
 
   /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif   great job Highlander!

   I have never made non-alcoholic Vanilla extract, but I have read that some people make it using food grade glycerin (I'm told it's available at Trader Joe's and Whole foods). 

    2  beans, 4 oz. water and 12 oz. food-grade glycerin

   again...I've never tried this.  But you do whatever you need to do.

      dan
 
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"Any particular bourbon you fancy?"

If you can find a bottle... A.H Hirsch, 1974. 

I bought a  bottle when my Hotel's high-end "Wine and Spirits" store closed. The F&B director blew out the inventory and I picked up a bottle for the grand sum of $28.00. :) 

it was amazing. It set the bar for me when it comes to Bourbon.  
 
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