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Nov 8, 2010 11:46 AM

Can this vanilla extract be saved?

I started my first batch of vanilla extract in May, hoping to give some as holiday gifts. I threw it together based on tips from the Chowhound posts: Basically, it's a ton of good-quality vanilla beans, all split in half, and upper-middle-grade vodka, stored in a dark cabinet and shaken weekly for 6 months now.

And it still smells and tastes way too boozy. I couldn't use it in recipes.

Any suggestions for salvaging it?

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  1. I can't imagine anything being wrong with it. That's exactly how I make it using Svedka brand vodka (which I have no idea if it's low, middle, or high shelf vodka). Nothing's going to alter it's basic boozy character, it's now very intensely vanilla-infused vodka. I use it just like store bought extract. Works great.

    2 Replies
    1. re: morwen

      me, too -- everything morwen said.

      1. i agree with morwen and sunshine, it's not about "saving" it, your extract is fine! all alcohol-based extract is boozy, even the commercial stuff. you can absolutely use it in recipes, particularly baked goods - you won't taste the amount of alcohol in a teaspoon or two when added to the rest of the ingredients. plus, much of the alcohol aroma will evaporate during baking.

        2 Replies
        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          If I'm not mistaken, Cook's Illustrated did a big thing on vanilla a few years ago and found that you could definitely tell the difference between the cheap stuff and the good stuff in the bottle...but there was very little difference in the finished baked goods.

          I make my own vanilla extract because I have no choice -- the French use vanilla sugar, which I've use in French recipes, but just can't get comfortable with in my US recipes -- and to me it has considerable deeper and better vanilla flavor. On the rare occasion you can actually find vanilla here, it's a king's ransom for a tiny little bottle of a thick, syrupy mess that just isn't the same.

          Fortunately I can get really, really good vanilla beans for a song, and a flask of cheap vodka is, well, cheap -- so I can make my own extract for a little less than I used to buy it in the States.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            +1. It's fine, just use it. I might be careful adding it to whipped cream, however.

          2. Thanks, everyone! I guess I should try it before I dismiss it. I guess I'll just have to test it in a cake, and maybe some cookies, and maybe some other stuff... Thanks!

            1. Commercial vanilla extract is boozy, too.

              1. Sounds OK to me. You are probably accustomed to the commercial products which use a lower alcohol content than 80 proof vodka. What type of vanilla did you use? Tahitian will be more subtle than Madagascan.

                1 Reply
                1. re: CCSPRINGS

                  Yep, Tahitian. I haven't done any baking at all, but I'll get on it this weekend.