I was very kindly sent some premium quality vanilla beans ( Here in the UK we call them vanilla pods) by my lovely Facebook friends Rick and Terri Hawkins, over in The States.
I was also kindly sent directions on how to make my very own top quality vanilla extract.
I have now made 3 litres of this wonderful ingredient!
For anyone, that does a lot of baking/cooking, it is well worthwhile making your own extract, as not only will you have a larger quantity of this useful flavouring, far greater than the tiny shop bought version in those mini plastic bottles, but it will also be of vastly superior flavour and you can adapt the flavour by using different varieties of beans and different alcohol.
There are several varieties of vanilla beans, Tahitensis & Planifolia Blend, Indonesia, India, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Mexico, Bourbon and Madagascar vanilla beans. These all have their own unique flavours and will give you different results, so feel free to experiment!
The version I have made so far is based on regular vanilla beans and cheap non brand vodka.
You simply split the beans lengthwise to open up the seed filled middles.
I used 12 good-sized beans per litre of vodka and then you submerge the beans totally in the alcohol and allow it all to steep for 8 weeks.
You can store the resulting liquid with the beans still in (as long as the beans remain totally submerged in the alcohol) and it will develop an even deeper richer flavour and colour or you can strain the liquid and then put the previously soaked beans in a glass jar full of caster sugar to make a wonderfully scented and flavoured vanilla sugar ……or simply use them in another batch of extract!
Store the bottle in a dark cupboard to use in your own recipes or decant the extract into little decorative bottles, to give as gifts!
I aim to put the used beans into fresh vodka and then add coffee beans and sugar. Shaking regularly to dissolve the sugar ( as you would with sloe gin) .
I will leave it to mature for 3 months, strain and then test! I will let you know how it tastes !