DIY Vanilla Extract

As much as I like the idea of cooking something with forty-seven steps and twenty-six ingredients, I’m in nursing school, and somewhere in my contract between the, “Ha-ha, you’re going to look like a pin cushion once you get all your immunizations up to date”, and the, “Stop questioning all of our ridiculous fees to keep your place in the program.”, clauses was the miniscule line about how I forfeit any and all rights to free time/a life/anything not nursing related for the next five semester. It has to be there somewhere, right? Right?

In the meantime, I find projects where I can make them quickly and then forget about them for a while, reaping the benefits weeks later when I am in a fit of despair from not being able to create anything. Unfortunately, this approach would probably fail with things like bread or casseroles or anything else that has a shelf life and the ability to grow funk on it, and I am thus left creation-less.

Suddenly, vanilla extract. IT’S PERFECT. Put vodka a source of ethanol and vanilla beans in a bottle and let it sit for a couple of weeks. Or months. Ta-dah! In addition, it’s a chance to apply my new-found chemistry based science knowledge (Maybe it was good for something after all). Molecules that harbor “taste” are polar and molecules that harbor “aroma” are non-polar, and ethanol is both non-polar AND polar, therefore enabling an extraction of both compounds. Cool, huh?

Yep. I spilled alcohol all over when pouring a liquid into a bottle. But! In news other than me making a mess, there is a lot of debate in the food world over whether or not the alcohol should be heated before infusion. Getting an end result is faster with the “hot extraction” method, but more delicate flavors are are intact with the “cold extraction” method. Supposedly.

DIY Vanilla Extract
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchens

3/4 cup vodka – (Not a premium brand, cheap vodka works well here.)
1 vanilla bean

To make vanilla extract, split a fresh bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds and split pod in a 1-cup sealable container. Add ¾ cup hot vodka and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Seal the container and store at room temperature for one week, shaking gently every day. Strain the extract (I didn’t because I like little vanilla-ish seeds in everything.), if desired, and store in a cool, dark place. The extract should keep indefinitely.


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