Vanilla Extract: Everything You Need To Know

So you want to learn about vanilla extract... well you've come to the right place! This blog post is all about vanilla extract and how you can make your very own at home. Before we dive into how to make your own lets discuss the 4 most popular varieties of vanilla. 

Vanilla Bean Varieties and their flavour profiles:

1. Madagascan Vanilla 

  • These beans are grown in Madagascar and usually have a rich, creamy flavour. They are the thinnest and most flavourful out of the 4, making them an excellent choice for vanilla extract. 
2. Mexican Vanilla
    • These beans are grown in Mexico and usually have a dark, smokey bold flavour. These beans come from the same plant variety as Madagascan vanilla but have different a flavour profile due to the curing process.
    3. Tahitian Vanilla
      • These beans are grown in Tahiti and have a similar flavour profile to the beans from Madagascar and Mexico, except with more pronounced floral flavour notes. Because of the floral notes, these beans are usually used in perfumes.
      4. Indian Vanilla
        • These beans are grown in India and are very similar to Madagascan vanilla. These beans can be used in applications where Madagascan Vanilla would be used and are usually deemed to be superior because of their full bodied flavour with chocolate undertones. 
        Did you know that we make all of our extracts from scratch? This allows us to control the intensity and flavour without preservatives or additives. As shown in the picture above, we see the fresh batch in the glass bottle and the finished batch in the 1/2L container to the right. Notice how the colour changes from clear to deep brown? This is the true colour of a well made, high quality vanilla extract. 

        So how do we make extract?

        1. Split and scrape your pods

        • Most recipes call for the seeds (the inside of the pod). This is the part of the vanilla bean with the most flavour which leaves the pod to be discarded unless you can find another use for it.
        • You have 2 choices here: make vanilla extract or infuse a cream/milk with leftover vanilla pods to enhance your ice cream or custard base with vanilla. 
         
        2. Add pods to Vodka
        • When you're making vanilla extract, you ideally want 1-2 empty pods per ounce (29.5mL) of alcohol. You want the beans to be completely submerged in the alcohol to allow for proper curing. 
        • When we make vanilla extract we prefer to use Vodka to capture the true flavour of the Madagascan vanilla bean. If you don't want to use Vodka, you can also use Bourbon, Rum or Brandy. Ultimately whatever alcohol and quality you choose as your base is up to you but keep in mind that bold flavours in alcohol can actually drown out the true flavour of the extract. 
        3. Be patient
          • We recommend using an air-tight glass container during the curing process. This allows the true aroma of the beans to be transferred to the alcohol and create a full bodied extract.
          • For best results, allow the extract to sit for 8 weeks until it turns a dark rich brown colour. 

          Chef's tips:

          • Store at room temperature away from sunlight in an air-tight glass container. 
          • This same method can be used to create citrus or herb extracts (such as mint, orange or lemon).
          • Choose a vanilla bean variety that reflects the flavour notes of the recipes you'll use it in. Ex. if you're just starting out, we recommend choosing Madagascan vanilla beans because they are the most commonly found and don't have bold undertones. 

          We hope the information and tips we've shared in this blog post help you understand the flavour profiles of vanilla beans. We wish you the most success on your quest to create homemade vanilla extract. Feel free to share your comments or pictures of your extracts with us below. We would love to hear from you!

          - The C40 Team 

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