This recipe can easily be scaled up or down. It can also be made with vanilla bean pods that have previously been scraped of their seeds. The flavor is not as intense as using the beans with the seeds, so you might want to use a larger quantity of scraped pods, or steep them longer to get the strongest possible flavor.
Yield: 1 liter (4 cups) Vanilla Extract
- 1 liter (4 cups) vodka
- 16 vanilla beans
1. If you have a liter bottle of vodka, pour out about 1/4 cup from the bottle and set aside. If you're making a different quantity, make sure your vodka is in a glass bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid.
2. Use a sharp paring knife to make a vertical slit in a vanilla bean all the way down the middle, but don't cut all the way through to the other side. Pull the sides open, displaying the soft seeds, or "caviar," inside the bean.
3. Scrape the back of the knife blade down the length of the pod, removing the caviar from inside the bean. Scrape it into the bottle of vodka, and repeat with the remaining vanilla beans.
4. Once all of the beans are scraped, chop the bean pods into several pieces each, and add the pieces to the bottle as well. If there is room left in the bottle, add as much of the reserved 1/4 cup of vodka as will fit, and consume or discard whatever doesn’t fit back in.
5. Put a lid back on the bottle or jar, and shake the vodka and vanilla well. Place the bottle in a dark cupboard and let it sit for at least 6 weeks, shaking it well every few days. Over time the color will deepen to a dark brown, and it will develop a strong vanilla flavor. Once it smells primarily of vanilla and not alcohol, it is ready to use. As you use the vanilla extract, you can keep topping it off with vodka, and adding the occasional extra vanilla bean, and have a sort of perpetual bottle of extract.
6. If it is tightly sealed and kept in a cool, dark place, vanilla extract will keep indefinitely.
Variations: Vodka is commonly used because it doesn't add it's own flavor to vanilla extract, but it isn't the only alcohol you can use! Try making vanilla extract with rum, or any other liquor with an alcohol content of 35-40%.