The motivation behind this post was derived from my journey in obtaining genuine vanilla extract in Singapore. Most commonly used in cakes and pastries, I checked out the baking section of every supermarket I went to in search of the aromatic liquid. That’s when I found out most commercial vanilla extracts were chemically made and that there was a difference between vanilla extract, and vanilla essence. It also lead to a whole afternoon devoted to finding out the difference between vanillin and the real deal, as well as the products in the market until I became skeptical about all the available “genuine” vanilla extracts out there.
So as with what we do in every other aspect of our lifes, we DIY it. I started researching on how to make your own vanilla extract, the most suitable whiskeys and cultivation period, the prettiest bottles I could store it in, etc. The final cost of making my own vanilla extract ended up being the same, if not higher than the bottles available on the shelves, but I’m certainly at an ease of mind that I’m not downing some chemically produced flavours.
And I don’t even bake…
What you’ll need:-
- Vanilla Pods (I’m using pure vanilla pods from Fiddes Payne which can be found at Cold Storage/ Jason’s Marketplace for about $10ish. Cheaper alternatives are also available at baking stores like Phoon Huat or Bake King)
- 250ml of Vodka, Rum, or Whisky (or any alcohol above 40% that suits your fancy, really!)
- An empty bottle with a cap
- Funnel (optional, not pictured)
- A kitchen knife (not pictured)
- Lots of patience (cultivating)
Slice the vanilla beans length wise to expose the seeds
A closeup view of the seeds
Drop 1-2 (sliced) pods into the bottle. The more vanilla pods you add, the stronger the flavour.
Measure out 250ml of alcohol and pour it into the container with the sliced vanilla bean. A neutral alcohol like vodka would give you a clean vanilla flavour while a mixture of vanilla and rum or bourbon could give you a result that is more complex and interesting. Remember to give it a little shake after you’ve sealed it tight!
If you have little alcohol samplers lying around the house like I do, it might also be easier to just use those.
Here comes the hard part. Waiting. For a deep infused extract, the bottle should be kept in the dark cool place for at least two weeks or more, getting a slight shake very week or so. By then, there should no longer be the burn from the alcohol and the vanilla should be deeply infused, turning the mixture into a dark brown colour.
It definitely makes for a great house warming or Christmas gift, especially since it is handcrafted. You do have to start preparing these presents early though, now would be just about right to have them ready for Christmas :)
Let us know if you’ve made your own vanilla extract before, or if you’re going to try this out!