Homemade Vanilla Extract
If you're like me, you like a good DIY project. Now, I don't have the patience (or time) for anything too complicated. Almost every time I tell someone I make homemade vanilla extract, they first seem impressed (it's super easy) and then think it's some long drawn out process (it's not).
The thought of buying real vanilla extract from the store doesn't sit right with me. I mean of course I have done it (and still do it in a pinch), but I much prefer to make it myself. The perk, you can make a huge jar for yourself and it lasts forever.
I like making extract because it's cheaper than buying it, it's fun, easy and makes a great gift. More than once I have given this away. Now the one thing you need to remember if you are making this for a gift, you need about 3 months until the extract is ready. That is to say, once you put the beans and alcohol in a jar to soak, it will take 3 months for the alcohol to extract the flavor from the beans. Pretty cool huh? That's why it's called extract. This fall, I meant to include this in a wedding gift, and then of course, ran out of time (Lauren knows I still owe her a bottle!).
What you need:
The beans: I buy mine from amazon. The ones I found at my local grocery store were expensive and dry. Make sure they are plump and moist. The amount of beans you need depends on how much extract you want (same goes for the alcohol).
The alcohol: I use vodka. I have read that you can use bourbon or other dark liquors but I have found vodka produces the most versatile vanilla, best for all-around baking. I have also read that you can use super cheap alcohol and super expensive. I have liked using something mid-range. I'll leave that up to you.
The glass containers: I found some at my local Hobby Lobby. The smaller ones are a perfect one serving size (great for gifts). I keep the large one for myself.
First, start by cutting the beans, making a slit lengthwise. You want to expose the paste but not cut the bean in half. Slightly pry it open. You need 1 cup of alcohol for every 5 beans.
If you want to know how much your container will fit of alcohol (and it doesn't give you the ounces), you can fill it first with cups of water. Or if you want to wing it, you can dive in and start by adding 5 beans then 1 cup of alcohol, alternating this, until the bottle is full. The smaller bottles I have pictured are a perfect 1 serving size, fitting 1 cup of vodka and 5 beans.
Helpful hint: 1 cup = 8 oz.
Pictured below: the jar on the left is vanilla that is "finished", while the jar in the middle looks pretty clear still, was made the same day we took the photos. Let the bottles sit for three months before using, shaking them every so often. I store mine in a cupboard, away from the sunlight. Once the extract is ready to use, you can either take out the beans, or leave them in the jar. I personally like to leave mine in.
Comment below with any questions!
Photo credit: Betsy Schipper Photography