The smell of vanilla essence is one of the my favourites… It’s an essential in the kitchen and if you bake often then you probably go through loads of vanilla extract, Vanilla ice-cream, vanilla cake… I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
Here i will show you how to make your own exceptionally nice vanilla extract for much less than store-bought vanilla.
Vanilla essence is made by macerating vanilla beans in a high-proof alcohol. I’d suggest using a nice bourbon or plain vodka (absolut works well). If you don’t want to use a lot of your precious booze on the vanilla essence, you could grab a few of those small sample bottles like you get in hotels or on a plane. Grab a few different spirits to experiment with.
Split vanilla beans lengthwise stopping about an inch from the end and pop them in the alcohol. For a stronger essence, i find it useful to scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod and drop them in the alcohol too. The general rule of thumb is 3 vanilla beans to a cup of spirit.
Now you have to wait, about 3 weeks minimum. Give the bottle/jar a shake every few days and then open it for a sniff to see how the extract is progressing. I find after the first day, the extract smells very sharp like high-proof spirit and raw vanilla but as time progresses, the subtle complexity of the whiskey blends with the sweet, warm aroma of the vanilla to make something purely delightful. As with most alcohol macerations, it just gets better with age…
If you choose to leave the vanilla beans in the essence (highly recommended!) you can simply top it up with more alcohol as you use it up. Don’t forget, there are many different types of vanilla beans, try experimenting with different varieties to see what you can come up with!