An easy to make DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract with Gin. Perfect to use for baked goods and in cooking. Also a beautiful gift! Only 2 ingredients needed: vanilla beans and gin.
As my trip to London nears to its end, I wanted to create something reminiscent of London. Many ideas floated through my mind, including baking some buttery shortbread cookies, but I was looking for a lasting creation that I wouldn't finish before leaving the city (much less in one sitting).
I found the perfect solution in making myself a bottle of vanilla extract with London Dry Gin. Vanilla extract is quite simple to make. When I moved into my apartment during my third year of law school, I was lucky enough to find a half consumed 1.75 litre bottle of vodka in my freezer left by the previous tenant. I couldn't bring myself to throw away a seemingly good half bottle, but also didn't want to drink a bottle where I didn't know its origins. Hit by an epiphany one night, I put some vanilla beans into it, shook it around, and it turned into my first bottles of vanilla extract some 8 weeks later. Since there was a little over 1 litre of vodka, it resulted in a lot of vanilla extract! That batch lasted me over 2 years, but I think I only have a few teaspoons left.
Vodka is the commonly preferred choice for making vanilla extract because it gives the extract a more pure vanilla flavor that is not masked by the alcohol base. However, any alcohol with at least 80 percent proof can be used as a medium. Today's choice: London Dry Gin.
London is home to type of gin called London Dry. London Dry is known to carry aromatic and flowery undertones, which are developed by the botanicals (especially the juniper berries) added during the distilling process. Given that London was also home to the Gin Craze in the early 18th century, it only seemed only appropriate to use a London Dry as the backdrop to this batch of vanilla extract. However, I wanted to satisfy my curiosity of using different alcohol bases in one go, so along with the London Dry Gin, I also came home with mini-bottles of whisky, rum and vodka. In 8 weeks time, keep an eye out for the comparison results!
It was a beautiful day to take the tube and make a short walk to the Spice Shop on Portobello Road Market to pick up some Madagascar vanilla pods. On the way, I made a quick brunch stop at Recipease, Jamie Oliver's kitchen workshop and cafe. It didn't disappoint, and I enjoyed a rich cup of soya latte and a toasted ham and cheese croissant. Being American, and I can't help it - cliche, but what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon perusing the antiques and shops in Notting Hill? And what if Hugh Grant was just around the corner?
Ideally, a dark amber glass bottle works best for making extract since it keeps out sunlight. Extreme temperature, variant temperatures, and sunlight are all known to damage the delicate flavor. These bottles can typically be bought in spice shops or apothecary stores, but today, I walked all over town and could not, for the life of me, find an amber glass bottle. As such, you will see that I made my extract directly in the gin bottle (a pretty one, of course!). Also, vanilla extract gets better with age, so don't worry about letting that extract sit and mature. Just leave it out of the refrigerator or freezer, and keep it in a cool dark shelf - not on the kitchen worktop.
DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract with Gin
- 5 vanilla pods
- 200 ml of London Dry Gin
Slit open the vanilla pods lengthwise, leaving approximately 1 cm uncut on both ends.
Submerge the vanilla beans in the gin completely and close the lid tightly.
Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds to set free some of the vanilla seeds from the pods. The more vanilla specks the merrier!
Store in a cool dry place and shake the bottle periodically. The extract will be matured and ready to use in about 8 weeks. Start the countdown now!
See the picture of the final product 8 weeks later.