Vodka and vanilla

Vanilla is a flavouring that I use a lot of. It goes into many of my cakes, icings, cookies and desserts.
I have not been able to source vanilla extract in Chennai, so I have to use essence.

Recently, I came across a way of making homemade vanilla essence. I’m not sure if one can call the end product an extract but as a kitchen experiment, it was worth a try.

All I needed were a few vanilla beans and some vodka. I did a Google search and found many sites that recommended booze like rum and brandy, but I went with vodka because (a) it is a neutral spirit and (b) it has a higher alcohol content.

A couple of years ago, some kind soul had brought me a few vanilla pods from Kerala. I hadn’t used them as they were a bit too dry. I didn’t have the heart to throw them out so I stored them in a bottle at the back of the kitchen cupboard. So out they came.

Fortunately there was also half a bottle of vodka lying around.

What I didn’t have was a quarter bottle-the 180ml bottle that you get at TASMAC shops. Luckily that was not too much of a challenge- I got an empty one from the waste paper boy’s shop. You know these shops- the ones that buy your old newspapers, old textbooks and go by the name “waste mart”.

Back home, the bottle and cap got a good wash with soap and boiling water. And when it was clean and dry, in went the vodka.

6 vanilla pods (I told you they were dry) went in next. I made a few slits on them before popping them into the bottle. Then a little more vodka went in so that the level was just shy of the rim of the bottle. A good shake and then back it went into the kitchen cupboard.

Every 3 days, I would give it a shake. In the space of a month, I found that it was developing a nice golden brown colour with a faint aroma of vanilla.

About 3 weeks ago, I had to use a couple of vanilla beans for a class. I had brought a few beans back after a recent trip to Singapore. So after scraping out the pods, I decided to put the scraped out pods into my vodka infusion.

The change was dramatic- the very next day, it had darkened into a deep mahogany and the aroma had also become stronger. However, I think I will have to sacrifice a couple more of my “imported” pods to be able to take the flavour to the next level.

Vanilla beans


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