Vanilla extract has a beautifully fragrant smell and adds a subtle, sugar-free sweetness to recipes. It can be bought in large supermarkets, but it usually has alcohol and sometimes sugar added.
You can make your own alcohol-free vanilla extract easily and cheaply – however you have to leave it for a few weeks before using to allow the vanilla flavours to steep into the liquid.
• 12 vanilla pods
• 500ml food-grade vegetable glycerine
• an airtight jar
• chopping board
• sharp knife – ideally one with a sharp pointed tip.
You can make as much or as little as you like, but as a general rule, use 3-6 vanilla pods to 250ml/8oz glycerine. I’ve used 12 vanilla pods and 500ml vegetable glycerine for this recipe, which I’ve made several times before.
Vegetable glycerine can be bought online – make sure it’s food grade. I’ve used Innavir, which can be bought on eBay (opens in a new window).
Vanilla pods can be purchased from supermarkets, groceries and cookshops, but if you want to buy more than two or three you may need to go online. Different types of vanilla pod have different flavours, though some of the best-flavoured pods, like Madagascan, are very expensive. I find that all vanilla pods have a delicious aroma and flavour.
You’ll also need an airtight jar with a sealed lid. If you use a metal screwtop or jar lid it might rust, as the vanilla extract will be stored for several weeks or months. I’ve used a Kilner-style jar. Some people prefer to use a tall, slim jar to help the flavour steep out of the pods, but I’ve had great results several times using a shallower jar.
1. Start by slitting each vanilla pod lengthwise using the sharp knife, so that the beans – the tiny specks inside the pods – can be exposed to the liquid.
2. Slice the opened vanilla pods in half so that they’ll fit in the jar.
3. Put the vanilla pods into the jar and pour the vegetable glycerine over them.
4. Seal the lid and store in a cool place for about four weeks.
The liquid will turn a golden brown as the vanilla infuses into the liquid. Use it straight from the jar in smoothies, smoothie bowls and home baking.