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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

From Bean to Bottle: DIY Vanilla Extract with Glycerin

Vanilla extract is a staple in many kitchens, adding a delightful aroma and rich flavor to a variety of recipes. Traditionally, vanilla extract is made by infusing vanilla beans in alcohol, typically vodka or bourbon. However, for those who prefer to avoid alcohol or have dietary restrictions, there is an excellent alternative: making vanilla extract without alcohol.

Alcohol Free Vanilla Extract Recipe

Before diving into the world of alcohol-free vanilla extract, it's essential to understand the purpose and significance of this culinary ingredient. 

Vanilla extract is derived from the vanilla bean, which is the fruit of the vanilla orchid. It contains a complex mixture of aromatic compounds that contribute to its distinctive flavor profile.

 In traditional vanilla extract, alcohol acts as a solvent to extract these compounds and preserve them for extended periods.  However, we will look at how to make vanilla extract without alcohol.

For more made from scratch recipes, check out these posts:

Benefits of Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract

There are various reasons why someone may choose alcohol-free vanilla extract over the traditional version. For individuals who abstain from alcohol due to personal, religious, or cultural reasons, an alcohol-free alternative ensures they can still enjoy the flavors and aromas of vanilla without compromising their beliefs or preferences. 

Moreover, alcohol-free vanilla extract caters to dietary restrictions and preferences, such as those following a halal or kosher diet or individuals who have chosen to eliminate alcohol from their lifestyles.

Ingredients for Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract

To make alcohol-free vanilla extract, you will need high-quality vanilla beans, food grade vegetable glycerin, and optional additional flavoring ingredients. 

It's crucial to source vanilla beans of superior quality to ensure a robust and authentic flavor.  Popular choices are Madagascar vanilla beans, Tahitian vanilla beans, or Mexican vanilla beans.

Step-by-Step Process

Preparation and handling of vanilla beans:

Before starting the extraction process, ensure your vanilla beans are plump, moist, and aromatic. Slit the beans lengthwise to expose the flavorful seeds.

Extracting the flavor compounds:

Place the vanilla beans in a clean glass jar or bottle. The number of beans depends on the desired intensity of the extract. Pour the alcohol substitute over the beans, ensuring they are fully immersed.

Infusing and aging the vanilla extract:

Seal the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark place. Shake the jar occasionally to encourage the infusion process. Allow the mixture to age for at least a few weeks, preferably a few months, to develop a robust vanilla flavor.

Note that vanilla extract made with glycerin takes longer to infuse, so plan to let it infuse for several months or up to a year.

Variations and Flavor Profiles

Experimenting with different types of vanilla beans can unlock a world of flavor variations.

Madagascar vanilla beans offer a classic, rich, and creamy flavor, while Tahitian beans provide floral and fruity notes.  Mexican vanilla beans, on the other hand, offer a bolder, spicier profile.

Additionally, you can enhance the flavor of your alcohol-free vanilla extract by incorporating complementary ingredients like cinnamon sticks, citrus zest, or even a touch of sea salt.

Storage and Shelf Life

To ensure the longevity of your alcohol-free vanilla extract, store it in dark glass bottles or jars with airtight lids. 

The absence of alcohol may reduce the shelf life compared to traditional extract, so it's essential to protect it from heat and light. 

Properly stored, alcohol-free vanilla extract can maintain its flavor for up to a year or longer.

Using Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract in Recipes

Once your alcohol-free vanilla extract is ready, it's time to explore its vast potential in the kitchen. Substitute it directly in recipes calling for traditional vanilla extract, making adjustments based on your taste preferences. 

Keep in mind that alcohol-free vanilla extract might have a slightly different flavor intensity, so you may need to adjust the amount accordingly. 

I like to use alcohol free vanilla extract in things that aren't cooked like this pumpkin spice coffee creamer or this vanilla chai tea latte

Troubleshooting and Tips

Despite its simplicity, making alcohol-free vanilla extract can present a few challenges. If your extract lacks sufficient flavor, try increasing the number of vanilla beans or extending the extraction time.

I recommend using 6 large vanilla beans to 1 cup of liquid.

You can keep the vanilla beans in the glycerin for a stronger infusion or remove them and make a vanilla powder recipe or vanilla sugar recipe

Adding Water to Vanilla Extract Made With Glycerin

Glycerin, like alcohol, has preserving properties.  However, you'll need to use it at least a 55 percent concentration for it to work as a preservative.

I use one part water to three parts glycerin.  This keeps the ratio right for preserving the vanilla extract.

Comparison: Alcohol-Free vs. Traditional Vanilla Extract

While alcohol-free vanilla extract offers a viable alternative, it's essential to understand the differences between the two options. 

The absence of alcohol can affect the overall flavor profile and longevity of the extract. However, alcohol-free vanilla extract can still provide a satisfying vanilla taste, making it a suitable choice for those who prefer to avoid or cannot consume alcohol.

Glycerin is naturally sweet, so you may need to adjust the amount of sugar in your recipe.  For coffee or other drinks, I add the vanilla made with glycerin and then add sweetener as needed.

 Enjoy the flexibility and versatility of this homemade option, knowing that it aligns with your preferences, dietary restrictions, or personal beliefs.  Remember that making vanilla extract with glycerin takes much longer than using alcohol, so plan to let this infuse for several months.

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