Here is a question for you – did you know you can make vanilla extract at home, especially a sugar-free version?
We are sure you love the flavor and aroma that vanilla gives to your drinks, snacks and foods. It also gives a very pleasing scent to candles, creams, perfumes, lotions, car fresheners, herbal oils, and many other things. There is indeed something to it that makes you feel like you are in comfort and satisfaction, which other flavors cannot beat.
Why is vanilla so popular?
To understand the reasons behind its popularity, it is important to look at its history. The plant itself is native to Mexico, and the beans were stolen by a Spanish explorer, Hernan Cortez. He took this, along with other plunder he stole from the Aztecs, back to Spain, where the flavor became extremely popular and spread throughout the world.
Vanilla beans are the most important part of the plant. Also referred to as vanilla pods, they are the fruit of the orchid itself (it is interesting to note that the plant is the only orchid that produces edible fruits). The only insect that can pollinate the flowers is native to Mexico, so vanilla grown in other regions of the world needs assistance in order to produce the seeds.
These regions include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Bourbon Islands, India, Tahiti, and Uganda. The process of cultivating and harvesting it is painstaking, taking about 13 or 14 weeks. Along with the high demand, these are the reasons why vanilla tends to be really expensive. However, you can still make your own extracts at home, all at a cheaper cost in the long term and without compromising on the quality.
In the traditional method, vanilla extract is made using alcohol, which is usually the flavorless type such as grain alcohol or vodka. An alternative can be glycerin, a sugar alcohol coming from plants, which will give it a sweet flavor and some carbs (although these are minimal).
What you need to keep in mind for Sugar Free vanilla extract
- Not only that, but vanillin, the active component of this fragrance, has both relaxing, antifungal and antibacterial properties – although these benefits apply mainly to the vanilla bean, not the rest of the plant. The problem that this brings is the vanilla-scented products you buy today are an imitation of the real thing, and this can bring damage to the environment.
- The better the quality of the extract, the more your baked foods will taste better, and your foods in general. Therefore, always ensure you choose the best ingredients to make the extract.
- If you are not sure about the alcohol you want to use, vodka is always a safe choice. It has a neutral flavor compared to the other forms of alcohol, so it will not affect the final flavor of the extract or the beans. It will also make the extract as pure as possible. The rum, bourbon or whisky will add a richer flavor to your final extract due to their stronger flavors.
- The best alcohol quality to use are those that contain at least 40% alcohol content (solid 80 proof). This is because the alcohol that is present in vanilla extract always evaporates when you use it to bake or cook foods.
- Most of the vanilla extract you will buy commercially contains alcohol, which can be a major problem for some people, as well as flavorings, sugar and additives which are bad news if you are on a low-carb or Keto diet.
- If it is the extract you need, therefore, it is much better to make your own at home instead of buying it; you never know whether the bought version is the real thing.
- At the end of the day, it is more affordable, as all you need to buy are actual vanilla beans, and some vodka or ethanol. In addition, supermarkets and shops are the worst places to buy vanilla beans, so buy them from online stores (they also come bigger and cheaper).
The beans you can use
There are three bean types you can go for, which are:
- Mexican vanilla beans – these will give a spicy (somewhat) and deep flavor
- Madagascar vanilla beans – gives the classic and rich vanilla flavor, the safest option
- Tahitian vanilla beans – they give fruity and floral aspects
There are two grades you can get:
- Grade A – have more moisture, and more expensive. They are not ideal for the extract though, because they have a weaker flavor and are not cost-effective, but are better for baking or cooking
- Grade B – have less moisture, so the flavor is more concentrated. They are also cheaper and more cost-effective for making extracts
Recipe to make sugar-free extract
The cuisines it can be used in are vegan, Paleo and gluten-free ones, and the preparation time is quite short – only 10 minutes.
- Vegetable glycerin, 8 oz. (you can also opt for bourbon, rum or sub vodka)
- 1 glass swing top, or some other tall bottle (especially if you are making it as a gift)
- 3 to 5 vanilla beans for every 8 oz. of liquid
Cut the vanilla beans with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife. The cut should be lengthwise to split them into two.
Fill the bottle with glycerin or alcohol until it is ¾ full (use a funnel to do this).
Add three to five vanilla beans for every cup of vodka, glycerin, rum or bourbon. The beans must be submerged entirely, so you can add more glycerin or alcohol to top the bottle off
Close the bottle and place it in a cool dark place for at least three to six months. The longer it stays there, the better the end result (longer times will also dilute the alcohol). Also shake the bottle after every few days to mix the ingredients.
Making vanilla extract is actually possible, although you will need to pay attention to the ingredients you select – they must be high quality. However, it will last you quite a long time, and you can use it in multiple foods.