Fig. A: Pour a bottle of store-bought vanilla into your
extraction jar as the starter. Fig. B: Add a bottle of inexpensive, not-too-strong-tasting alcohol (usually vodka).
Fig. C: Split about half a dozen vanilla beans lengthwise
down the middle. Fig. D: Add approximately 4– 6 new
beans to the starter jar. Fig. E: Add 3– 4 used beans to
your jar each month, or as many as you use in your day-to-day baking and cooking. The more the merrier!
10. Decant and top up.
When your homemade extract has reached your
preferred strength, decant some into your own
4oz bottle (you can even use the handy little store
bottle), or multiple little bottles, if you’re going to
give some away. Don’t decant it all — make sure
there’s enough left to get your next batch started.
Now get out that second bottle of booze you
stashed away all those weeks ago and top up the
container so it’s full again. You’ll need to do this every
time you decant. You can probably leave all the beans
in there at this point, but if things start to get too
crowded just remove a few of the mushiest ones.
Place the container back in the cupboard to
8. Shake the container every week. mature for another couple of months and repeat
Feel free to poke your nose in and see how things Steps 7– 10 as many times as you like. The extract
are developing. It will start out smelling powerfully you get from it will just keep getting better and better.
like alcohol, but over time, the vanilla flavors will
take over and the boozy smell will almost disappear.
6. Shake and set aside.
Put the lid on tightly and give everything a shake.
Now put the container in a cool, dark cupboard.
7. Carry on with your normal life.
Make lots of cookies, cakes, custards, and ice cream.
I’m sure you’ll think of other uses for all that vanilla,
but the important thing is that every time you use a
bean, throw it in your extract container afterward.
If all you’ve used are the seeds, simply throw in the
empty pod; if you’ve simmered the entire bean in
liquid, give it a good rinse first. Use your nose — if it
still smells like vanilla, go ahead and stick it in.
9. Do this for, oh, about 6– 8 weeks.
The longer the better. What we’re aiming for is that
by the time you’ve finished that bottle of store-bought extract, your own should be rich, fragrant,
and ready to start decanting.
Melissa Kronenthal is a food and travel writer living in Edinburgh,
Scotland. When not obsessively hoarding vanilla beans, she
writes the award-winning food blog