10 months ago, I started Round 2 of my Homemade Vanilla Extract project. The results look much more promising that Round 1 (from 2010). But I have seen (and tasted) little progress in the last 6 months. I’ve decided to take the same step that saved my 2010 batches; which is to swap out the 10 month old beans for new beans, and use the old beans to pre-extract my next batch (which will probably be in 2016).
My Four Vanilla Extract Recipes for Round 2:
- 60% of the minimum FDA-strength: Based upon Chris Kimball’s 1993 recipe using super-size beans. I used 2 beans (1/2-ounce) and 8-oz of vodka. The cost is 25-cents per ounce of vanilla extract.
- 120% of the minimum FDA-strength: The recipe is slightly more potent than the minimum FDA-Strength. I used 1 ounce of beans and 8-oz of vodka, whereas the FDA requires only 0.83-oz beans per cup. The cost is 46-cents per ounce of vanilla extract.
- 166% of the minimum FDA-strength: I am hoping that this recipe gives me the big vanilla flavor that I am searching for. I used 6 beans weighing 1-3/8-ounces plus 7-1/3-oz vodka. The cost is 75-cents per ounce.
- 211% of the minimum FDA-strength: Gives me a full double-strength vanilla extract. The recipe used 7 beans weighing 1-3/4-oz plus 7-oz vodka. The cost is $1.03 per ounce.
Day 1. December 3, 2013. The beginning.
Week 1. December 8. All recipes have some color.
Week 2. December 17. There may be an issue with recipe #4.
Month 10. October 14, 2014. I have seen little process over the last 4-to-6 months. I decided to use some fresh beans to finish the extract.
Vanilla Beans. I paid $28 for 1/2 pound of amazing vanilla beans.
Vodka. I paid $16 for 1.75L of Svedka Vodka.
The summary of Round 1 from 2010 is below. The four recipe variations that I made were:
- Chris Kimball’s 2009 Recipe. 1-1/3 beans per cup of vodka. I placed the finished bottle in pan of 125-degree water for 1 hour, per Recipe #1 only. Extraction time 1 week, after which time I filtered the vanilla.
- Chris Kimball’s 1993 Recipe. 2 beans per cup of vodka. Extraction time 1 week, after which time I will create a small filtered sample, but allow the remaining to continue to steep per the CI instructions.
- Internet Recipe. (Links 1, 2, 3). 3 beans per cup of vodka. Extraction time 2 to 6 months, after which time the vanilla will be filtered.
- FDA Single-Strength Recipe. 0.83-oz per cup (about 7 extract-grade beans). Undefined extraction time. I will sample at various stages, and filter if it ever becomes too potent.
Generally, I followed the same instructions for each recipe, except where noted:
- Use a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down the center of the vanilla beans.
- Scrape the caviar out of the pods. Put the vanilla beans (and caviar) in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- Cover the beans completely with alcohol. Depending upon the jar being used, the beans may need to be cut in half to get the alcohol to cover the beans.
- Tightly cover the jar and give it a shake.
- Store in a cool dry place. Give the bottle a good shake every week or so.
One weakness of all recipes (Except Recipe #4) is that they list the number of beans per cup of vodka. But because they don’t specify which grade of beans. “Grade A” beans are heavier (about 100 beans makes one pound), and I used “Grade B” (150 beans makes one pound). There is 40% variance in potency due to this ambiguity.
Day 1. October 1, 2010. The beginning.
Week 1. October 9, 2010. Recipe #1 is a failure.
Week 2. October 17, 2010. No more surprises. More beans equals more flavor.
Week 12. December 20, 2010. Even the FDA strength still is noticeably weaker than McCormick’s.
So I wouldn’t call my project a failure. I baked with it in cookies, and used it in vanilla bean ice cream. It is functional. But clearly I cannot call it a success either. It lacks the extra potency that was my original reason for making it in the first place.
- Perhaps it was my vanilla bean vendor. He originally sent me tiny beans (240 per pound), which he called extract beans. I complained at their puny size and he sent me “Grade A” beans, but still they were only 140-per-pound (which is the exact definition of extract grade beans). Perhaps he was just selling bad beans.
- Another possibility is that it did something wrong, but it seemed pretty straight-forward. Slice, scrape and dunk.
- Possibility McCormick’s extraction process is better and therefore they get more potency from the same amount of beans. However going into the project, I thought that the reverse would be true. That my patience would outweigh corporate impatience.
From here, I intend to use more beans in a double-extraction process. I hope that this will fix this batch.