Growing Hawaiian Vanilla is a true labor of love. Needing 3-5 years of growth before the vine is able to produce flowers and another few months of drying and curing, the final product is more “brown gold” than “plain ol’ vanilla”. The question then becomes, what do you do with the vanilla beans?
Vanilla extract is probably the most common product of the vanilla pod, and is a prime ingredient in most baked goods, along with various other culinary applications. From your cookies and cakes, to flavoring your favorite coffee beverages, vanilla extract is used daily around the world. Yet many people don’t realize just how easy it is to make your own pure vanilla extract.
Many “vanilla” extracts on the market actually contain no real vanilla. Instead they are made from the tar of the guaiacum tree, pulp waste from paper factories, coal tar, or WORSE. These byproducts contain trace amounts of vanillin, which is one of the compounds that gives true vanilla its flavor. However, pure vanilla contains 250 complex compounds that if it a much deeper and more unique flavor. Imitation vanilla also contains other unnamed “artificial flavorings” and chemical ingredients. There is no comparison between the two products in its raw form.
Some people argue that when high heat is applied (like when baking with vanilla extract) many of those complex compounds are cooked off leaving mostly the vanillin behind. As such, many choose to go the cheaper route and opt for imitation vanilla for their baking needs. Having an intimate relationship with vanilla I tend to disagree, but I will leave that argument to the trolls. As I will be primarily using this for our coffee flavoring and other non-baking applications, I have no use for the fake stuff.
With that said, making your own pure vanilla extract is a very simple process and contains only two ingredients:
The recipe for vanilla extract is more of a ratio than an actual recipe. with only two ingredients, the trick is to source the highest quality ingredients you are able to find.
…and that’s it!
For this recipe, I wanted to keep everything local to Hawaii, so I used a handmade vodka from Maui, and the vanilla beans were grown right here on our Big Island farm.
The ratio is also very easy to remember:
1 Vanilla Bean for every 2oz of Vodka
Split the vanilla beans down the middle with the tip of a paring knife and scrape out the tiny black seeds from the inside of the pod. Place the contents into a glass bottle or container. Fill the container with enough vodka to cover the vanilla beans, seal and set aside. Then you just wait.
Some people begin to use their vanilla extract as soon as 4 weeks after bottling, but if you wait 6 months you will be rewarded with the most delicious vanilla extract you have ever had.