Vanilla essence

Over here loads of exciting things are going on, such as experimenting with a new camera (it is an awesome GoPro, and I must admit I feel a bit too school for cool, but hopefully that all will change soon while I just keep practicing) and preparing for a holiday to the Caribbean!
Reminiscing our previous holiday in 2013 to Indonesia, one of the things I really like is that we managed to bring home some edible souvenirs that are still (!) shining in our kitches. Next to some beautiful sea salt from Bali, we brought a large bunch of vanilla beans home.
Vanilla beans are stunningly inexpensive in Indonesia and are sold by the bunch. We bought around 60 beans for a little less than € 10 (!).  To enjoy them as much as possible, I have made big pots of vanilla extract and have given little pots of it (with a little piece of bean in it) to friends over Christmas and various other occasions.The recipe is easy and just requires two ingredients and some time.

The essence is made by letting vodka infuse over a long period of time, until it colors beaufilly dark. The vanilla perfumes the alcohol as if it were a blank canvas. After around six weeks, the extract is ready and rich in smell and flavor. I even noticed a little oily layer on top, which I think is because the beans were so fresh.
Now, a year later, I still have two big pots full of beans, and I have been surprised to notice that it is possible to reuse the beans to make a second batch of essence.
I can imagine however, that this would be the maximum and that the beans are not strong enough afterwards to repeat that trick. I would then grind the beans together in my kitchen machine with a little sugar syrup to use per spoonful (some trick from Raymond Blanc shown in his amazing BBC series).

Until then almost every baked good just gets so much better by a splash of vanilla essence as well as a hint of good memories. 🙂
Vanilla extract

  • 20 vanilla beans
  • 500 milliliters of vodka
  • a large jar

Simply place the beans into the jar and pour the vodka over it. Leave in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks.In case you would like to give this away as holiday gifts, I would advise to go for small bottles with a little screw or cork top (to make sure it won’t leak). The same principle works with a smaller amount of vanilla beans, just make sure there is enough to infuse the essence.


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