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Single-fold versus double-fold vanilla extract

Double the beans, double the sweetness. That’s the difference between single-fold and double-fold vanilla extract. Fold is the culinary term for vanilla concentration. It's pretty simple, the more beans you add to the same amount of vodka, the sweeter and more potent the flavour.

Extract concentrations go up to 20-fold, but bakers and chefs rarely use more than three- to four-fold because the liquid can become unstable. Most store-bought vanilla extract is single-fold, and usually, we double up the number of teaspoons we use for added sweetness.

The US FDA formula for single-fold vanilla extract is 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans for every one gallon of 35 percent alcohol. Double-fold vanilla extract is 26.7 ounces of vanilla beans for every one gallon of 35 percent alcohol. That's the formula for commercially-made vanilla extract, and if you do the FDA math, that’s about a hundred beans to a gallon (3.8 liters) of vodka for single-fold extract.

For you and me at home, use 1 ounce (28 grams) in one cup of vodka for single-fold vanilla extract. Use 2 ounces (56 grams) in one cup of vodka for double-fold extract. The smart thing about double-fold extract is you don’t have to double the amount of liquid in your recipes to get twice as much sweetness.

Roughly one ounce equals 6 to 8 beans, but it depends on what type of bean you've bought. Your pods may be long and thin or short and plump, so it's a good idea to weigh them if you're making homemade vanilla extract for the first time.

There’s something deliciously delightful about making homemade vanilla extract. You can experiment with adding more beans to double the vanilla hit, and you can use beans from all over the world and different spirits to play with flavour profiles. Most importantly, you know exactly what you’ve added to make homemade vanilla extract. It’s blissfully pure, with no nasty chemical additives.

All you need is three ingredients: whole vanilla beans, vodka and a touch of patience. Submerge the whole vanilla pods in the vodka in a clean glass container, only slice them to speed things up. Vodka is the spirit of choice for homemade extract because it has a neutral flavour, but you can use white rum, brandy, bourbon and cognac.

Store your bottle of vanilla magic in a dry, cool place out of direct sunlight. Your kitchen cupboard or pantry is best, don’t put it in the fridge. Then wait a minimum of six to eight weeks for the beans to release their wonderful essence for the best-tasting pure vanilla extract, shaking the bottle now and then to disperse the liquid.

The best homemade vanilla extract is left hidden in the pantry for a year to age but most of us don’t have that much patience. To speed up the extraction process, you can slice a few beans in half to release the seeds.

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