Vanilla is a something that has for as long as I can remember delighted my senses.

When I was young it was associated with baking. I learnt to cook at an early age and Mum always made pretty much everything that we put in our mouths. Her steak and kidney pies were mouthwatering, her cheese scones have never been bettered even in the poshest of tea rooms and cakes were turned out with ease and decorated with alarming amounts of butter icing. 

Needless to say I have somewhat changed my approach to feeding but I have an undeniable need for cake now and again. Usually the urge to bake occurs late into the evening, perhaps in the late hours of the day I feel less guilt…almost as if with darkness brings with it some sort of protection from unnecessary consumption of calories! Ridiculous I know but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that gentle need to graze just before bed?

Later in my life I was introduced to vanilla in body creams and lotions. I am a self-confessed body butter junkie. After every bath or shower I slather myself with whatever my latest potion happens to be. At various times I have wafted around in the warm, gentle fragrance of vanilla. How real it is I have no idea as so many beauty products use chemicals to perfume them. Fortunately, it is easy to experience the rich notes of vanilla beans by making your own extract which is a far cry from the vanilla essence that you buy from supermarkets.

Back in November of last year I came across a recipe for making my own extract of vanilla which was kindly shared by @CarlLegge on Twitter. We had already a bottle of vodka, which neither of us drink, so all I apparently needed were vanilla beans.


3-5 vanilla beans
8oz vodka, rum or brandy

1. Split each of the beans in half.
2. Pop them in a suitable glass container and add the alcohol. Using vodka gives a neutral base whilst brandy and rum will add their own flavours to the end result.
3. Store in a cupboard away from daylight and shake every day.
4. 4-6 weeks later it is ready to use. The longer you leave it the deeper the flavour/aroma.

There are a variety of vanilla beans available and they can be bought in bulk via various internet suppliers. It is perfectly ok to use Grade B beans as they have a lower moisture content which is a good thing when making an extract.

Choose from Bourbon and Madagascar beans which are the classic robust variety. Tahitian vanilla is more fruity and floral whilst those beans that grow in Mexico have a smooth and spicy flavour. 

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