The smell and taste of maple inspires thoughts of warm breakfasts on cold days. However, when eating maple-flavored bacon or other products you may not be consuming real maple. Getting pure maple essence requires a lot of commercial equipment and know-how. What's most common in the market is making imitation extract from fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), which is something you can do at home. Fenugreek is an herb whose seeds are popularly used in making curry, but that also have a maple flavor when prepared properly. You can find the herb at some spice or tea shops and health food stores.
Place the seeds in a non-reactive frying pan. Stir and toss regularly for even heating. Do not let the seeds brown or the resulting extract will take on an acidic flavor profile.
Put the seeds into the herb grinder while they are still warm. This helps release essential oils in the seeds that provide flavor. You want a consistency similar to drip coffee grounds.
Warm the vodka with the vanilla bean. Use the lowest setting on your stove and avoid boiling. Put the seeds into the glass jar then add the liquid by funnel so it covers the ground seeds completely. Cap.
Put the closed bottle in an area that remains cool and dark. Shake it daily for three to four weeks. Strain using cheesecloth folded over three times. Return the clarified extract to the bottle. Use as desired.
Add orange rind or use orange vodka for a maple-orange extract.
Keep all spices out of the sunlight as that decreases shelf life and flavor.
Patricia Telesco has been a writer since 1992. She has produced more than 60 books with publishers that include HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Her articles have appeared in "Woman's World" and "National Geographic Today." Telesco holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Buffalo.