It still amazes me how many preservatives and additives are in the little things we use in the kitchen. Take a look at the ingredient list on bottle of vanilla in your pantry; there should only be three ingredients – vanilla beans, alcohol, and water. Most vanilla extract sold in stores is not a pure product. Some vanilla extract contains a petroleum product called, “ethylvanillin” and some Mexican vanillas don’t even use real vanilla beans but instead use “tonka” beans which can be toxic if consumed in high doses. Other ingredients found in vanilla extracts are: caramel coloring, sugar, and corn syrup. If you are doing your best to bake with whole, organic ingredients then it’s a good idea to make sure your vanilla, spices, and condiments are coming from good sources also.
After chatting a bit with some of the ladies from Rodelle (a company that sells some amazing organic vanilla) they informed me that in order for vanilla to be classified as an “extract” you need 18-20 vanilla beans per 750ml of alcohol. They also told me that in order to get the best flavor out of your beans you can chop them up before adding them to the alcohol, or let the whole beans ferment in the alcohol for at least 2 months. Homemade vanilla lasts a couple of years if kept in a cool dark place and there is the added benefit of having wonderful fermented vanilla beans in your pantry to be used in your baking.