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Monday, August 13, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I've been waiting to share this with you!

I'm OBSESSED with making homemade vanilla extract.
Whaaa? Yes--you can make your own vanilla extract.
And it. is. SO. easy!

If you're a frequent baker you're aware of how expensive pure vanilla extract is (and how inferior imitation vanilla extract is). It's kind of ridiculous, especially once you read this post and totally realize how much money you could be saving. As it turns out, all vanilla extract is is vanilla beans that have been soaked in alcohol for awhile. That's it. For serious.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
Homemade Vanilla Extract
For the alcohol you can use just about any type of vodka, brandy, or rum-although vodka is recommended. But it can seriously be the cheapest stuff you can find, doesn't matter. Vanilla beans you can easily purchase online, if you can't find them in a store. And they're fairly inexpensive, especially if you buy a lot at a time. Part of what makes this super cheap for me is the fact that I get a lot of free alcohol from my day job (doing liquor promotions). Usually, after a tasting, I just let the store keep it, since I don't drink and have no use for alcohol. As soon as I decided to start making my own vanilla extract, though, I became so psyched anytime I got to keep some unflavored vodka or rum (so far I've used Voli, Ultimat, and Tito's vodkas and Pyrat Rum). The people working at the stores always give me the weirdest looks when I tell them, "I'm so excited to go home and use this to make some vanilla extract!"....(Am I weird?) 
Anyway, then I just had to wait for my first shipment of vanilla beans from Beanilla-my excitement was barely containable when I received that package! Then I just had to get everything together and wait the 2 months for it to be ready. That waiting time was pretty fun too, actually. Every time I could see the vodka vanilla extract get darker I would squeal with delight! Even Michael got in on it, often asking, "How's our vanilla?!" It's a whole bunch of fun. Oh, and it smells like freakin' heaven. And using it? Amazing. It enhances everything it is added to. AND-homemade vanilla extract makes an amazing gift. And, you know, Christmas is only a few months away. You'd better start preparing this stuff ASAP! ;)

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Adapted from My Baking Addiction with additional information from various internet sources

Homemade Vanilla Extract
You'll Need:
  • Sterilized jar or bottle with an airtight lid. (I used clear glass bottles with "swingtop", 8.5 oz. size, from Beanilla and The Container Store)
  • Vanilla beans, whatever variety you prefer (Bourbon Vanilla Beans are used for a more "traditional" vanilla taste, which is what I used.) You will use 1 bean per 1/3 cup alcohol.
  • Vodka, Rum, or Brandy (70-80 proof). Vodka will produce a cleaner vanilla flavor, but rum or brandy can add certain complexities-it's up to your preference. 
  • Use a sharp knife to split vanilla bean(s) in the middle, leaving about half an inch of each end intact. 
  • Put vanilla bean(s) in the sterilized jar/bottle and fill with alcohol (1/3 cup of alcohol for each bean. So, for example, if you use 3 beans you will use 1 cup of alcohol).
  • Close jar/bottle and store in a cool, dry place for at least 6-8 weeks (I think they really need 8 weeks or more, and the longer the better).
  •  Every week(ish), shake the bottle.
  • As you use vanilla, you may replace with more of the same alcohol you used-occasionally refreshing with a new bean or two. 
  • Some seeds will escape and you will see little brown specks in your extract. These are delicious. Leave them. If the appearance really bothers you (or if perhaps you are giving this as a gift) you can strain them out.
  • The vanilla beans are good so long as they still have their scent-once they have lost it, discard and replace with new bean(s).
  • You can use leftover beans, etc. in lots of delicious vanilla ways! Put them in a canister of sugar to make vanilla sugar, for example.
  • If you have any more questions-Google it (or you could, of course, ask me). There's a lot of information on making your own vanilla extract on the internet.
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