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23 March 2009 @ 05:24 pm
I got my vanilla beans from Vanilla Products USA on Ebay today. First the cold stats. I got a half a lb of their Madagascar Bourbon extract grade beans. This wound up being about 80 beans from 5 (at the shortest, and only a couple of those) to 7 inch beans. Delivery was fast, I did a buy it now on March 17th and got them today. Communication was good. When I opened the vacuum sealed pouch, I was hit by an intense vanilla/bourbon smell. Yum yum. The beans were thin, but full of a nice dense caviar, and they were moist, out of the ones I rendered for my extract, I only hit one woody bean in the bunch. Bonus- they sent me 10 free Tahitian extract grade beans to try. It was 10.95 + 3.12 first class mail. So about 18¢ per bean, which is a really great price.

So to make my extract, I used the method at Vanilla Review, he's got great instructions and takes vanilla super seriously. So I'm just going to give a quick overview and my math on it.
I *can* use a lot of vanilla, I use lots more than most people I think, since the complexities of underrated vanilla never fail to thrill me. And because vanilla meringues toasted to just golden are as close to a guilt free cookie as you can get. So if you're not as much into vanilla and think less will do fine, just reduce measurements.
So a quick reference for people who don't drink and need measurements (like I did.. so I'm just saving you the google time)
1/2 pint= 8 oz
1 pint= 16 oz
Fifth (the standard bottle size) = 1/5 gallon =25.6 ounces
VR recommends an ounce of beans per cup of liquid, and having 80 beans to 8 ounces roughly (I didn't weigh it) meant approximately 10 beans=1 ounce.
I used Skyy vodka because it was the only mid-tier vodka in a colored bottle. He recommends dark bottles, and in this bottle, I feel safe letting it set until it's ready. I won't put it in sunlight, but in one of my cupboards, it's fine. I got a fifth. Because I needed room for the beans, I poured 3/4 of a cup into a jar to use for something else (footspray actually.. I did mention I don't drink right?)
I wanted a double strength or better vanilla extract. So..
(25.6-6)/8= 2.45, or roughly 2 and half cups of vodka. So for a single strength extract, that would be 25 beans, for my double strength thick extract, it would 50 beans. I sliced off the tops and bottoms of the beans with my sharp knife, and put them in the bottle, then I sliced them lengthwise and used the back of the knife to scrape the caviar out and put the caviar in the bottle, and cut up the pods into inch long pieces and put them in the bottle. And did that for 50 beans, which was time consuming, but if you're making a smaller amount,or just want a single strenth you wouldn't need to do that many. I really like vanilla. When I was done, I recapped the bottle (oh.. a nice easy screw cap!) and gave it a good shake.
In 6 months, I'll strain out the beans, and decant it into smaller amber or green bottles and probably give away a few bottles to friends so my next batch can be made with Alaskan vodka. I'm planning to include a recipe for meringue cookies with it when I give away a couple bottles as gifts. It's supposed to be "done enough" after a month, but I want to let it go the full 6 months for the richness of flavor. A couple weeks before we strain the bean pieces out, we plan to make sugar crystals and then put the pieces in with them for a very fancy sugar for tea and coffee.

Of course, my husband was very patient about the whole house smelling like vanilla. Because he rocks like that.
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