Homemade Natural Vanilla Extract!

I thought I'd try something a little different to put out on Christmas Eve, I’m putting this out a little earlier in case you get inspired by this and don’t have all the ingredients (there are only 2 ingredients!). 

Before last week I had never given much thought to vanilla essence (which is very different to vanilla extract), the vanilla extract we’re going to make uses all-natural whole vanilla pods, whereas vanilla essence is just vanilla-scented water (which is why its always much cheaper). I found out recently (thank you Shannon) that vanilla essence is made in a way that is certainly NOT vegan, but more importantly…the process is absolutely disgusting, I won't ruin your life by telling you how they make vanilla essence but look it up and prepare to have your mind blown. Once finding out these disturbing facts, I looked up how to make a vanilla extract from home and it turns out all you need are some vanilla pods, some rum/vodka/brandy and a preserving jar! 


Ingredients 
Makes about 250ml of Vanilla Extract 

2 Vanilla Pods (if you can get more it’s best to use between 2-5 but vanilla pods are £6.50 just for two so I stuck to that to save on cost). 
250ml (small bottle) Rum/ Vodka/ Port (it really doesn’t matter about the brand, just get the cheapest one, it's just got to be strong!) 
250ml Preserving Jar (I used a 0.5L preserving jar because that's all I could get but if you have a smaller one it’s great, any size is fine just work out how much 250ml is within your jar). 


To start with slice the vanilla pods in half with a sharp knife, they don’t have to be split fully from end to end but as long as the beans are exposed it’s fine, mine were a bit too long for the jar so just chop them in half and then slice them. 


Then add them to the bottom of your jar making sure they fit in properly and they sit at the bottom. 


Now pour your alcohol on top! I didn't use an exact measurement but the vanilla pods MUST be comply submerged in the alcohol, if they poke out a bit they’ll go slimy and mouldy, so they need to be completely covered. I used spiced rum and I'm hoping this will give it a deeper flavour when I get round to baking with it!


Once the alcohol is in, give the jar a good shake 2-3 times until you can see some of the beans are loose in the alcohol, then just clip the jar closed and airtight and keep it in a dry place, out of direct sunlight. 


This now needs to sit for at least 3 months but to get the best out of it, leave it for 12 months until next Christmas, just give the jar a shake every 2 weeks to get the beans moving around. As the pods are in alcohol they will last at least a year once you start using it before the vanilla flavour lessens, if you take the vanilla pods out and just leave the beans in the solution, they will last forever! Don’t worry once you start using it either, you won't have to throw our your pods and buy new ones, just top it up with alcohol again and give it another shake and you’re good to go next time. 
If you want to give these as gifts next year like I plan to, then just fill up your little gift bottles with the extract without the pods, as I say, your friends and family won't have a use-by date for this as there’s no vanilla pod to go mouldy in it so they can carry on using this for years to come! 
I know this might not look like alot, but remember you’re only going to use a couple of tsp’s worth for each bake so it’ll last a really long time! 

How simple was that?! You’ve bypassed the disgusting vanilla essence AND you have pure and natural vanilla extract to use in all of your baking, I’m so excited to start baking with this next Christmas!
I am going to update this post every 3 months so you can see what’s changing and then next year I'll let you know how it tastes! 

If you can get a hold of some vanilla pods, a jar and some strong alcohol, you’ve got yourself a never-ending supply of vanilla extract that’s completely natural, vegan (depending on the alcohol) and cheaper in the long run for you! 

Merry Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow and enjoy it the best you can with as many of your loved ones as possible. 

H x 

***UPDATES***

06/01/2021

It's been about 2 weeks now since I made the extract so it's time to shake it up! I noticed the vanilla pods have gone a little gloopy (I'm hoping they won't go mouldy!!) but the overall colour is MUCH darker now, I wanted to smell it but I thought it was best to keep the air out but I can imagine it smells very sweet and spiced! 


20/01/2021

It's been a month now since we started this and last time I checked I was worried the vanilla extract was going mouldy!! But having looked again now, the jelly-like stuff on the end of the vanilla pods has gone now, I think it was just the other vanilla seeds in the pods seeping out and reacting with the alcohol. It looks so much lighter than last time and the liquid seems a lot clearer so I'm hoping its kind of filtering itself too! 


03/02/2021

It's been almost six weeks now that the extract has been fermenting so I gave the jar another shake, I feel like the colour has darkened again much like at the start of January. I'm still too afraid to open it and smell it so this time I just smelt near the seal and I got a huge whiff of vanilla! I'm hoping that's a good sign, all the gloopy-looking residue on the edges of the vanilla pods seems to have gone now too so I think it's coming along nicely! 


17/02/2021

There wasn't too much change in the last two weeks for the vanilla extract. I think it's got a bit cloudier but I can still smell that vanilla goodness coming from the seal! The vanilla pods don't look gungy at all now but a lot of the seeds do seem to be settling on the bottom of the jar even after I shook it up, but I'm sure that's normal! 


03/03/2021

How has it already been two months since we started this! I think this is the longest recipe I've ever done but also the easiest as you just let it sit and its thing on its own! Much like the last update there isn't too much change, I feel like the vanilla seeds are clumping together a lot more now and it's gone a bit cloudy again but if I know anything about this (and I'm beginning to) this will probably all change again in a couple of weeks time! 



17/03/2021

Ok, this is getting exciting now! It's been almost 3 months exactly since we started this whole process and that means if you're impatient that from next week you can start using your vanilla extract! 
I think this week it's got a lot darker, so hopefully, the fermenting process is really kicking in now and all those lovely flavours are just melting together. You're gonna want to come back next week because I'm going to be brave and open the jar! I'm not going to use any of the extract I just want to see what it looks and smells like! 



24/03/2021

How has it been exactly 3 months since we started this homemade vanilla extract?! I'm very excited to say that if you're one of the impatient people among us, then you're free to start using the extract from today! If you want to make it last longer then keep the pods in the extract but keep topping up with alcohol each time so that the pods stay fully submerged to stop them from going slimy. But, if like me you're willing to wait a bit longer (...9 months longer) then you don't need to do anything, just give the jar a shake and you're good!
I opened the jar tonight and had a cheeky sniff, it was nothing but straight rum that hit me in the face! Hardly surprising considering it is just rum and vanilla pods but I do hope the pods drown out some of that smell (and taste!) once we get to baking with it at Christmas. I'll have another smell of it towards the end of June and see if anything's changed. 



31/03/2021

Back for another bi-weekly checkup on the extract! Not too much to report this week, I think the colour has gotten darker again and the seeds have pretty much settled and are staying on the bottom now. But that's about it for this one!



13/04/2021

I could smell the vanilla before I even brought it down off the shelf this week (and no, the lid is fully closed) so that must mean that it finally might be cutting through the alcohol a bit. I gave the jar a good shake as normal and noticed the pods themselves have gone a light, woody brown now instead of their deep black like before and the overall colour of the extract has lightened, I don't think this is a problem it's just where the pods have been fermenting in this brown rum for over 3 months I guess they would lose some of their colour. Also this week I tipped the jar upside down to move the seeds around a bit, it looked a lot better after doing that so hopefully, that might make a difference. 


28/04/2021 

I put the jar up to the light today so that you could really see the colour of it. I can't smell the vanilla as much from outside the jar now so I think it's all fermenting together again, there were a few clusters of seeds that had clumped together and if you hadn't seen them before you might think it was mould starting to grow but it's just the seeds breaking down with the sugar from the alcohol, as soon as you give the jar a shake they all disperse again. 
I am a little worried the extract might taste too strong of alcohol so I'll have a taste when it comes to Christmas time and if it is too strong I'm going to add a tiny amount of sugar when I come to put the extract in jars.



12/05/2021

The vanilla extract is pretty dormant at the moment, it doesn't seem to change much throughout the weeks but we are 5 months into this now so almost halfway! I think it's gone quite dark again over the last couple of weeks but apart from that nothing much has changed...sorry this update is a little boring! 


26/05/2021

We're over 5 months in now and the extract is still much the same as a couple of weeks ago again, I think it's lightened in colour again and the seeds are very settled on the bottom. 


24/06/2021

I left the vanilla blog a little longer this time so that we could talk again once it had been exactly 6 months since we started this whole process! The vanilla extract is looking a lot darker now and if you wanted to you could just bottle it and start using it or giving it to your friends but I'm gonna keep mine until we start the Christmas baking and then just top it up with some more rum nearer the time to keep it fresh. 
I am a bit worried the taste is going to be way too strong of rum and not of vanilla but that might also give each bake a spicy, warming flavour that I wouldn't have otherwise, we'll just have to wait and see! 




 

 

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