Friday, May 21, 2010
I've got my vodka, I've got my vanilla pods, I've got my castor sugar. No prizes for guessing what I'm up to.
I'm telling you how much and where to buy these items because I KNOW I will be bombarded with questions otherwise. :)
1. Smirnoff Vodka (1L) = around S$20 (from Changi Airport duty free), around S$40 from regular shops.
2. Vanilla pods (10 in a packet) = S$10 from Phoon Huat. This is the el cheapo version because I really don't know where I can buy Madagascan or Tahitian vanilla in Singapore! Anyone knows?
3. Castor sugar (1kg) = S$2.50 per packet from supermarkets.
4. Container for sugar = S$2.95 from IKEA.
Assuming you get your vodka from duty free like I did, and you dunk all 10 vanilla pods into the 1L bottle ... you basically get pure, homemade vanilla extract for under S$30!!!
Better yet, use those vanilla beans for baking before you throw the pods into the vodka, so that those pods are essentially used TWICE. How's that for stretching your dollar?
Oooh, save some pods to make vanilla sugar. Just throw them into your (castor) sugar jar and store them there. Next time you need vanilla beans, take one pod out, rinse it, slice it, scrape the beans out, and then throw the used pod into the bottle of vodka. In the meantime, your sugar gets perfumed by the heady scent of vanilla.
You can do the same for your regular granulated sugar too. Imagine how your coffee or tea will taste like. :)
I saved this empty bottle of my daughter's favourite drink. Re-use whatever clear glass bottles you have at home (clean and dry them first, obviously). This one is 300ml, so I'd need about 3 to 5 vanilla pods. I put 2 in first (beans already scraped out) but I will add more as I continue using up the pods for baking.
Over time, as you start using the extract, just keep adding vanilla pods and top up with vodka. The more pods, the richer, darker, concentrated your extract will be. Vanilla extract has an indefinite shelf life. Like fine wines and spirits, they become better with age. Isn't that good to know? ;)
This looks like sunset in a bottle, no?
Store in a cool, dark place and give it a little shake every few days. But don't forget to first admire that gorgeous hue of amber (in the early days, at least). Now that I'll have a never-ending supply of homemade vanilla extract, I can live happily every after. *contented sigh*
Others who have made it too:
My friend just asked a good question: "Why we can't use cheap cooking wine?" Why do we have to use vodka or brandy or bourbon?
The answer can be found here. Essentially, higher proof of alcohol = stronger extract. Vodka has an alcohol content of 40 to 50%. Cheap cooking wine or rice wine, on the other hand, have an alcohol content of about 15 to 25%.
* In order to get the strongest extract possible, use a high proof of alcohol and scrape the seeds from the pod (or split the pod open).
* To get a weaker extract, use a lesser proof of alcohol and soak whole pods intact.
* In addition, corn syrup or sugar helps extract and develop the flavor from the vanilla pods (corn syrup dissolves more easily).
* Occasionally, spoon out some of the mass of vanilla pods that settle to the bottom of the jar for when you want a very intense vanilla flavor (such as homemade vanilla ice cream or butter/vanilla pretzel cookies).
All the above useful tips and more, can be found at this site.