(I want to say hello to our friends at CityCharmer! I am guest blogging there today, so check out my friend’s blog and all the great things she has to offer!)
Yes, you read that right. We are going to make our own vanilla extract! It’s going to be very fun, trust me. And actually, best of all, it’s ridiculously easy. You will be asking yourself why you haven’t been doing this for years. Oh, the other great thing is, this extract is way cheaper than store bought. One of my favorite things is to make something homemade and it’s better than store bought and cheaper than store bought. Oh bliss! Alright, bare with me.
I made my first batch of homemade vanilla last summer. I go through an INSANE amount of vanilla around here. Must be that baking addiction I have. I made a huge bottle of vanilla extract in August, I started using it in December, and it’s now April and I’m starting to run low. That doesn’t quite seem normal – 4 and a half months to use a huge bottle of vanilla extract….hmmmm……this is all that’s left…
Therefore I decided it was time to get more vanilla going for myself (I am going to have to go to Sam’s Club and buy a bottle to hold myself over ) AND I decided right now would be a great time to post this for you all because if you make it now, it will be done in time to use as a Christmas gift. (Yes, I know, I said Christmas…it’s really too early to even be saying that word, but I wanted you to be ahead of everyone else and have presents for all your people and then you will be stress-free for Christmas 2012!)
Let’s get started….
Head to the liquor store (yes, I said liquor store) and buy a bottle of vodka. Now the word on the street is you shouldn’t buy the cheapest vodka you can for making vanilla extract, they say you should use a vodka that is mid-range. I use Smirnoff, another option might be Absolute. If you aren’t a connoisseur of vodka (I am not, I asked Mr. Chaos), you can ask the person at the store for some suggestions. Or go by price, just buy something in the middle of the price range. I buy sort of an average size bottle, 750 ml – and you also want 80 proof alcohol – just check the bottle. There are 3.17 cups of vodka in a 750 ml bottle (WHAT would we do without Google?) – you will need this information when you add your vanilla beans to your liquor. If you have a different amount of vodka, you just need to figure out how many cups you have. This is seriously the hardest part of this assignment.
You need 3 vanilla beans per cup of vodka. I use 11 beans for the 750 ml bottle. Vanilla beans can be expensive, but you can find them at health food stores and I have found they are cheapest online. I order mine from Amazon and you can see that they are a pretty good price. I didn’t order as many the first time around, but this time I ordered the 1/2 lb amount because I’m making 2 bottles of extract. If you store them correctly they keep for quite awhile. (It is recommended that you store them in a closed, but not air tight container in a cool, dark place. They should keep for at least 6 months. However, if they get a little dry, they can still be used to make extract.) You can order fewer beans if you like. I’ve also done a little research and find that most people say the Madagascar beans are the most desired flavor and great for baked goods. If you really get into this you can try out different types of beans and different types of liquor (bourbon, rum etc). If anyone is that cool, please report back.
To make the vanilla, slice the beans down the middle to expose all those wonderful teeny vanilla seeds.
Place the beans into the bottle of vodka. (I remove about a 1/4 cup of vodka before putting in the beans)
Seal tightly and place in a cool, dark location. Shake weekly. Each week the color of the vodka will darken. Some people say that you need to let your bottle sit for 2 months, and others say 6 months. I try to wait at least 4 months. The great thing is, the vanilla gets better the longer it sits and can last indefinitely.
Here is a little financial breakdown for you of the cost of homemade vanilla verses store-bought:
$25 for 54 vanilla beans (this is approximate, I paid $24, you can go a little higher or lower)
$5-6 for beans per jar of vanilla extract
$13 for vodka
1 bottle of vanilla extract (3 cups) = $18-19
I checked, and in my local grocery store, McCormick vanilla extract is $6.99 for 2 ounces ($3.50 an ounce). In our 750 ml bottle of vodka there are a little more than 25 ounces, therefore, $19 divided by 25 ounces = $1.31 an ounce. That is much less than $3.50 an ounce. Not to mention that you got to make this all by yourself! and it is PURE PURE PURE vanilla. Amen.
Toward the end of this summer, all the sudden you can remember that you have cool Christmas gifts for all your friends, and then sigh and relax. Get some cute bottles and hand out your new extract as gifts. Or keep it for yourself and go bake some fabulous chocolate chip cookies.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
vanilla beans, 3 per 1 cup of liquor
liquor – vodka, bourbon, rum (vodka is nice because it is mostly flavorless and doesn’t interfere with the vanilla flavor)
Place vanilla beans in the same bottle as the liquor. Seal and shake. Place in cool, dark location and shake weekly.
Let sit for 4-6 months.