Vanilla extract is used in making ice cream, cakes, desserts, name it. It can give your food a sweet aroma and great taste.
Vanilla extract can be bought in supermarkets, at your grocery shop or order online. How to choose the best vanilla extract can be a little bit of hustle if you lack basic knowledge about the qualities of good vanilla extract.
However, vanilla extract can also be made at home with a few easy to get ingredients.
It’s easy to make vanilla extract, just reach to your home bar, grab vodka, head to the kitchen and mix vanilla beans with vodka and let it sit for 2 months, you have vanilla extract.
What is Vanilla extract?
According to Wikipedia, Vanilla extract is a solution made by macerating and percolating vanilla pods in a solution of ethanol and water.
There is a grade or what you may call the standard of vanilla extract depending on the number of vanilla bean extractives and the vanilla to alcohol ratio.
To be labeled as pure vanilla extract, a gallon measure should contain about 13.35% of vanilla bean extractives, 35% alcohol, and 51.65% distilled water.
Vanilla extract is popularly used in baking, and ice creams as it has a pleasant and savory taste.
How to choose the best vanilla extract.
With many brands and types of vanilla extracts on the market, finding the best or choosing vanilla extract can be quite hard. You may also fall victim to buying vanilla flavor instead of vanilla extract.
There are many scenarios that you may face if you lack the skills of choosing the best vanilla extract.
It is quite easy and won’t require testing or biological testing knowledge. Learn the techniques of identifying the best vanilla extract below.
1. It should be labeled vanilla extract
Don’t fall for vanilla flavor mistaking it for vanilla extract. Check the ingredients, vanilla flavor will not have alcohol as it is the case with a vanilla extract that has alcohol.
Vanilla extract is way much stronger than vanilla flavor. However, if you don’t want alcohol, substituting vanilla extract with vanilla flavor is the best option.
However, these labels are more efficient in the United States. In other countries, like Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America, the labels make no sense.
It is therefore recommended to watch out for labels on certain brands that are from outside the USA where the labels mean nothing for example Mexico.
2. Country of origin
Vanilla’s country of origin can determine its taste and quality. The most popular countries that produce good vanilla are Mexico, Madagascar, Uganda, Indonesia, and others.
If the vanilla that was used comes from countries with a good reputation for producing good vanilla, the vanilla extract will also be good.
3. Purchase vanilla extract that is sold in a dark-colored bottle.
Light-colored bottles can let light into the bottle making the vanilla extract to spoil faster. The use of dark-colored bottles helps to maintain the quality of vanilla extract much longer.
4. If it is made with more vanilla and from premium grade vanilla beans.
The label says much about the standards of vanilla extract. If the vanilla extract is made from premium grade vanilla beans, it will surely be a great one.
A label reading made with more vanilla beans gives you a good insight into vanilla extract. If the vanilla extract is made with more vanilla beans, it will have a deeper flavor when used in cooking and baking.
How to make the best vanilla extract at home.
Vanilla extract can easily be made at home with just vanilla beans and a bottle of vodka nothing else complicated.
You must, however, have patience as the extraction of vanilla takes place.
Here is all that you need.
Vanilla beans: these can be got from online or grocery stores. Since they come in grades, grade B is the best for extraction. Grade A vanilla beans can also work as they will make a great extract too.
An article about How to choose the best vanilla beans can help you come up with the best vanilla beans for your extract.
Vodka or alcohol: vodka can make a great extract and is popularly used. The vodka should have no flavors. Flavors can spoil the extract.
However, you can use other forms of alcohol such as bourbon, brandy, or rum as long as they aren’t flavored. There is no need of getting expensive alcohol as the flavor comes from the beans, not the alcohol.
Dark-colored glass bottle or jar with a tight seal: you will have to store the extract in a dark and tight seal jar or bottle to keep maintain the flavor and quality for a longer period of time.
For this recipe, you will need;
- 8 oz glass bottle or jar.
- 8 vanilla beans
- 1 cup of vodka 70 proof/35% alcohol
- Slice the 8 vanilla beans in half lengthwise. This will open up the beans to reveal the bean flecks.
- Add the vanilla beans into vodka in a glass jar with a tight seal. Make sure that all the vanilla beans are fully submerged in the vodka with no exposed parts.
- Seal the jar tightly and regularly give it a shake.
- The liquid will become very dark after about 8 weeks.
The best alcohol for making vanilla extract at home?
Alcohol with 80-proof is very suitable for making vanilla extract. The best choice is unflavored vodka, brandy, or rum.
The price of the vodka or alcohol doesn’t make a big difference as long as it is neutral and unflavored. It is important to note that the quality of alcohol doesn’t make a big difference in the taste and quality of the extract. It is the quality of vanilla beans that makes the difference and determines the taste and aroma.
Why should you make vanilla extract at home?
- One of the obvious reasons why you may want to make vanilla extract at home is to cut on costs. Buying already made extracts from supermarkets can be more expensive than making your own.
- On the other hand, making your own vanilla extract can help you be in control. You will be able to determine the amount of alcohol for your extract, the depth, flavor, and how old you would want your vanilla extract to be.
- I guess I am not the only person who has a hobby of trying out things, making your own vanilla extract can also make you feel innovative and happy if you can make your own product.
Pure vanilla extract Vs Imitation flavoring
1. Pure vanilla extract.
Pure vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans and nothing else. Pure vanilla extract has no added sugar or syrup. It must contain 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon during its extraction.
The extract must also have an alcohol content of about 35% in order to meet FDA standards. Pure vanilla extract is, of course, more expensive and deeper in flavor compared to imitation vanilla extract.
2. Imitation vanilla extract.
Imitation vanilla extract is made from artificial vanilla flavorings. It is made from synthetic vanillin extracted from wood pulp.
Imitation vanilla extract is way much weaker than pure vanilla extract and it would require twice as much as a pure vanilla extra would be required to meet a certain flavor.
Benefits of vanilla extract.
- Vanilla extract has healing properties since it is packed with antioxidants. The presence of antioxidants boosts the body’s immunity to fight diseases and injuries. The antioxidants in the vanilla extract can also help fight free radicals that can cause diseases and inflammation.
- Vanilla extract can strengthen the hair and improve its health.
- The aroma from vanilla can help relieve stress, depression, and anxiety. It has a direct impact on the nerves that are responsible for stress.
- The use of vanilla extract can promote healthy digestion.
- Vanilla extract is packed with magnesium and potassium which are essential minerals for a healthy body. Potassium helps to ensure kidney and heart function while magnesium can improve muscle and nerve health.
Did you know vanilla has many health benefits when taken as tea? Check out our article “vanilla tea benefits”.
The bottom line.
Reading the label can help you choose the best vanilla extract. From the label, you get to know the origin of the extract, the percentage of the constituents; vanilla beans and alcohol and the ingredients if any.
The fewer the added ingredients, the better the vanilla extract. While making homemade vanilla extract, use unflavored vodka and grade B vanilla beans.