Monday, April 23, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I seem to be on a roll with the alcohol recipes this year. Last month it was the Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, and the month before that (although I didn't share) I made a batch of homemade Limoncello. This month I decided to try another Pinterest find - homemade vanilla extract. I read somewhere that the price of vanilla extract was going to increase just like everything else, and I use it a lot, so making my own seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Besides, it gave me a valid reason to buy vodka. A very large bottle of vodka.

Credit for this recipe goes to fellow blogger Suzanne at I can never get links to show up here, so just copy and paste that into your browser window to take a peek at her very cool blog. This is a very simple recipe, but it will be a work in progress since it takes a month or two for the vanilla to be ready to use. I really like her idea of adding a bit of dark rum to the finished product - I happened to have some leftover from when I made fruitcake a couple of Christmases ago, so I'm looking forward to trying it. Commerical vanilla extract is about 35% alcohol because it also has water, sugar, and other things added to it, so this will be way better, stronger, and you'll know exactly what's in it.

Here's what you'll need:

1 750 ml bottle of vodka
12 whole vanilla beans
dark rum (optional)

You can buy any kind of vodka you like, I just got this one because the bottle was so pretty. I paid about $20 for it, so you can definitely get cheaper vodka if you want. I have also heard of people using bourbon instead of vodka. Decisions decisions! The 16 oz bottle of vanilla I'm using right now currently sells for $52.95. I spent about that same amount for this, but in the end I'm going to end up with 25 oz of extract for the same price as that 16 oz bottle. You can find vanilla beans all over the place, check out the internet - eBay, Penzeys is where I got mine, just take a look around and find what works for you. I had a choice between Madagascar and Mexican vanilla beans, but I chose the Madagascar because that's what is typically used for vanilla extract. There was no difference in price between the two.

Anyway, let's get started! First, take each bean and cut it lengthwise with a kitchen scissors until you are about an inch from the end. You don't want to cut it completely in half, so it should look like this:

Next, start placing them inside the vodka bottle. You will have to pour out a little bit of vodka when you do this, so this process may have to involve having a cocktail while you work. We all have our burdens to bear... *sigh*

Once you've got them all in there, put the lid on and give the bottle a good shake. Shake it a couple of times a day at first, and then just whenever you think about it. Keep it in a cool, dark place and let it steep for at least a month, but longer is better for a stronger finished product.

When you're ready, you can transfer it into smaller bottles and give as gifts, refill your current bottle, or use it right out of the big one. If you are adding rum, do it after you've poured out the first small bottle and add it with a funnel. You could also pour out more vodka when you first start and add it then - and have another cocktail or two. Why didn't I think of that when I was making it? Oh well... After the first few times you've taken some out, you can keep adding more rum or vodka and an occasional fresh vanilla bean or two to it to keep it going. You will have a continous supply of wonderful vanilla this way, and it will keep for years.

This is my first time making this, so I don't have a finished bottle to show you, but here's what mine looked like after about a week:

At this point, it already smelled amazing! I can't wait until it's ready to use - I will come back and edit along the way and let you know how it's coming along.

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