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More Than Just Plain Old Vanilla

August 6, 2015 at 9:53 pm By

Homemade vanilla extract is really just a matter of patience. To make it, simply add 3-5 vanilla pods to 8 oz of vodka and wait anywhere from one to three months. But who has that kind of time?

You can speed up the process significantly by placing your mason jars in a warm water bath, aka sous vide. If you don’t have fancy equipment, you can use a pot of water with a thermometer. Then, infuse your extracts for 2 hours at 135F (58C).

And there is no reason to limit yourself to vodka, especially since I used all mine making daiquiris and White Russians. I happened to have a lot of bourbon on hand, so I used that for one batch. The brand I used was 45% alcohol, so I diluted it with distilled water to bring it down to 35% (in line with typical extracts).

I also had way too much Disaronno, which is an almond liqueur, so figured I’d try that too.  The thing is, I hate almond extract with a fiery passion. But my hope was to create a subtle almond flavoured vanilla extract that could be a viable substitute for baking.  It was only 28% alcohol so I added a little Everclear to bring it up to 35%.

Everclear went in my third batch, and at 75.5% alcohol, I added a lot of distilled water to bring it down to 35%, inline with the other two jars.

After just two hours, all three jars were filled with a dark brown liquid. I let them mellow over night before sampling.  And…the Disaronno is the most delicious thing I have ever tasted!! — partly from the 9g of sugar per ounce, but also because the vanilla took over as the dominant flavour, with the almond as a really nice secondary note. This will go into something soon. The bourbon is good, but the vanilla flavour isn’t very pronounced. I plan to let it continue to develop, and then test it in a few baked goods that call for bourbon. The Everclear version tastes slightly better than the control bottle of vanilla I compared them to, which proves to me the warm infusion is as good as the 3 month wait. In hindsight, I wish I had made a jar with rum. Maybe I should go do that now.

So technically, what we made could be classified as vanilla extract, get stored in our pantry, and be used for baking. Simply substitute whenever vanilla extract is called for.

But, we also took our first foray into infusions. All three of these jars could go in our liquor cabinet and become part of a great cocktail. In fact, all three would make a great White Russian when mixed with some coffee liqueur and a splash of heavy cream.

There really is no limit.  Experiment, have fun, and enjoy your extractions and infusions!

Technical Notes:

  1. Add 3.7oz of 75.5% Everclear to 4.3oz of water to make 8oz of 35% alcohol solution.
  2. Add 6.22oz of 45% Bourbon to 1.78oz of water to make 8oz of 35% alcohol solution.
  3. Add 6.82oz of 28% Disaronno to 1.18oz of 75.5% Everclear to make 8oz of 35% alcohol solution.