diy vanilla extract and vanilla seed paste

Today I’m using fresh vanilla beans to make homemade vanilla extract and vanilla seed paste. It’s super easy, but requires a lot of patience later! It will be at least 3 months until the extract is ready.

This recipe is for a double-fold extract, which means you can use it one-for-one in place of the kind you’d get at the grocery store.

While leaving the seeds in the pods would shave a little time off the infusion process, it’s hard to pass up using those beautiful, fragrant seeds. They shine in recipes like custard and frosting, bumping any recipe from delicious to decadent. The best part is that the seed paste can be used immediately, so it can tide you over while the extract ages.

Ingredients:

  • 10 vanilla beans
  • 8 oz rum, vodka, or bourbon

The recipe can be scaled up as needed. There are all kinds of vanilla beans to choose from, and you can mix varieties together to create your own special blend.

If the vanilla beans you’re looking at are sold by weight, generally 10 beans weigh about one ounce.

Each type of vanilla bean has a distinct smell and flavor. For both the beans and the alcohol, there are a lot of options.

If you’re planning on only using the extract for baking, any type of beans and alcohol will work great. The more complex notes of the extract won’t make it through high temperatures.

But if you’ll be using the extract uncooked, like in custard or mixed drinks, it’s worth your time to be choosy about your vanilla and alcohol options.

I’m using Ugandan vanilla beans, which have a rich chocolatey smell. For the alcohol I’m using bourbon.

Other tools needed:

  • sharp knife and cutting board
  • very small container to put seeds in
  • tinted or opaque bottle/jar to keep the extract in
  • funnel

The step-by-step:

First, cut the curled ends off the vanilla beans. Getting rid of the ends helps with the next step by making the pod straighter. Go ahead and throw them into the extract bottle.

Next, slice the bean in half lengthways. If the inside is sticky, you may need to flatten the halves out a little by hand to get to the inside.

Use your knife to gently scrape the seeds out. If you want to avoid scraping up part of the bean pod, use the blunt side of the knife instead; this will help to leave the pod intact.

Collect the seeds in a separate small container and set aside for later.

Scraping the seeds is optional, so you can skip it if you don’t think you would use them. Leaving the seeds in will speed up the flavor extracting process by a little bit.

You can even scrape the seeds and then add them to the extract bottle if you want. This would give you an extract that always adds a few vanilla flecks to whatever you’re making.

After the seeds have been removed, dice the empty shells into small pieces. The smaller the better. This step is all about creating more surface area for infusing the alcohol. If you have trouble cutting through the fibrous pods, you can use clean scissors instead.

Add all these delicious vanilla bits to the extract jar.

Time to finish up!

Add the booze to your extract bottle, being careful not to overfill. Cap the bottle or jar and give it shake. As it infuses over the next few months, try to shake the bottle up every week or so to circulate the contents.

Making extract is a soft science, so there’s no exact time it will be ready. In fact, the longer you wait, the better it will be. It could be ready to use in as little as 2 or 3 months; but if you can, try waiting 6 months to a year. Think of it as a fine wine–but one that’s ready in months instead of years.

When in doubt about your extract’s maturity, use it to make an easy test recipe and see how it tastes.

On to the seed paste:

As of right now, the seeds look like this. They’re sticky and clumpy, so I like to make them a little easier to use by thinning them with alcohol (and it’s nice to add a little bourbon flavor).

Add just enough alcohol to cover the seeds. It doesn’t need to be exact.

Over the next day the seeds will absorb the alcohol and make a paste. I like to use this paste in recipes that call for scraping the seeds from a vanilla pod. I use 1/2 teaspoon in place of each pod called for in the recipe.

Note: This seed paste shouldn’t be used as a substitute for recipes that call for “vanilla paste.” Vanilla paste is sugar blended with whole beans or extract, but this paste is almost entirely seeds.

And there you have it: vanilla seed paste for now, vanilla extract for later!

My favorite use for the seeds is vanilla ice cream made with coconut cream. No post on that yet, but maybe this summer 🙂

When the extract is finally done, take it for a spin using this white hot chocolate mix recipe.

Let me know about your favorite recipes that use vanilla seeds or vanilla extract. Leave your comments and questions below!

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