The Phoenix

WEEKLY RECIPE with Bette Banjack — Pure Vanilla Extract


Real “Pure Vanilla Extract” is made by steeping vanilla beans in alcohol and water. This means a maximum of 35% alcohol and at least 100 grams of vanilla beans per liter.

The type of alcohol is the kind used in wine, beer and hard alcohol. This is the reason you need to be careful not to drink vanilla extract in any sufficient amount. It will dissipate in the heat when baking or cooking.

Beware of imitation vanilla. Do not confuse the vanilla extract you use in your baking of cakes, cookies, brownies and cupcakes as well as custards, pudding and ice cream. Synthetic vanilla can leave a bitter taste to your recipes.

Pure vanilla extract is more expensive but well worth the price. Make sure you are buying a dark extract over a clear or caramel color one. Check the label to make sure that it is pure vanilla extract that you buy.

The reason you use vanilla extract is to enhance flavors with other ingredient­s in the dish — such as milk, sugar, etc. Anything with remote traces of raw egg should have a splash of vanilla according to the FDA which requires 35% ethyl alcohol and is made with whole vanilla beans for pure vanilla extract. To substitute pure vanilla, you can use maple syrup — tablespoon for tablespoon.

Madagascar produces the best pure vanilla beans which in turn produces the best vanilla. With the exception of my kitchen. For quite a few years I have made a giant bottle (usually in a 1.5-liter vodka bottle). It is known to be in demand by several I have gifted to over the years.

This is one of the few times I have shared this recipe with others. So here goes …


2 whole vanilla beans (each 5-6” long)

1½ cups of vodka ½ cup warm water ¾ cup granulated sugar Split the vanilla beans lengthwise into two pieces each. In a glass container with a screw top, add all the ingredient­s. Screw the top on the container and shake vigorously. Shake once a week for eight weeks*, and keep it at room temperatur­e. Stain vanilla liquid through cheeseclot­h or coffee filter. Quickly rinse off the beans for a clean presentati­on. Rebottle the vanilla extract into smaller bottles. Fill smaller bottles and add a small piece of

beans in each (even if you have to cut some). Pure vanilla extract makes wonderful gifts.

*Can be kept beyond eight weeks in large bottles before pouring into smaller bottles.


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Pure vanilla extract

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