Vanilla purists wait longer to let the extract age and develop its intense flavor. Ideally, you should allow your vanilla beans to infuse for six months to a year, eighteen months if possible.
Test whether your vanilla extract is ready using four of your five senses. For fun, invite foodie friends around for the uncapping ceremony and tasting.
Mature vanilla extract has a dark, amber, translucent color. It doesn’t look anything like store-bought extract, which is colored deep brown, almost black using food dye. The colour depends on what alcohol you use. Bourbon- or rum-based extract will look opaque and darker than vodka-based extract.
Treat your vanilla extract like you would fine wine. Note the intensity of the smell when you open the cap or ‘pop the cork’ (most vanilla fans prefer to use a cork). You should smell the rich, fragrant vanilla aroma before the spirit. If the alcohol smell is more dominant than the vanilla aroma, your extract needs more time to mature.
You can use your pinky finger to test your vanilla extract, but it doesn't taste that nice when highly concentrated. The best way to taste test homemade extract is diluting it with a neutral-tasting medium like milk or cream.
Mix two to three drops of vanilla extract in a shot glass and add up to three tablespoons of milk. Leave it to sit for three to five minutes. Give it a swirl and take a sip. You should pick up the rich, creamy vanilla flavor before the alcohol.
Listen for the ‘oohs and aahs’ from your family or friends when they pick up the wonderful vanilla flavour in the milk. Vanilla lovers will let out a happy sigh, and you'll know your homemade extract is ready to use in your favourite recipes.
Taste test tips.....
Timing depends on what type of alcohol you use to make homemade vanilla extract. Most people use vodka because it has a neutral taste and aroma, and it doesn't dominate the natural vanilla flavour. If you are using stronger-tasting alcohol like bourbon or rum, allow more time for extraction.
The golden rule is the vanilla aromatics should be at the forefront, and the alcohol flavour lingers in the background. Your extract is not ready if the alcohol base dominates the delicate, sweet taste of vanilla.You can speed up the extraction process in two ways; add more vanilla beans to the alcohol or split the beans in half to release the seeds. Most people usually submerge whole vanilla beans in the alcohol, but splitting them speeds up the time it takes for the extract to be ready