food: homemade vanilla extract

I stumbled across a recipe for vanilla extract on the web last year and the idea has been milling around in the back of my mind ever since. When I saw this tiny jar at Michaels for $1 yesterday I knew it would be perfect for this project. I will say it’s not cheap, well I suppose it could be as cheap as you’re willing to be. I love a good vanilla extract, in fact I really feel it is the make-or-break ingredient for cookies, and most other recipes that call for it. I typically make a special trip up to The Spice House in Milwaukee once a year to pick some up. I prefer the Madagascar variety, but I happened to have a few Tahitian beans on hand from my last trip out there (I typically use the beans for to-die-for homemade vanilla custard, they’re not what I would consider cheap though at $14.95 for three beans).   In the bottle they went, along with enough vodka to fill the jar.

It didn’t look like much at first, and although recipes seem to vary, it should be ready in 6-8weeks with full maturation at around 6  months. A week later the liquid is brown rather than clear. Pretty impressive.

The recipe I used is from Baker Street. I like it because they noted that you need 1/3 cup of vodka per bean – useful info for smaller portions like mine. And the amazing thing about vanilla extract? You can refill the amount you use without adding more beans. Also, you can remove and dry the beans and add them to your sugar jar for vanilla flavored sugar.  For my next batch I’d like to make it with bourbon rather than vodka to see the difference in flavor.


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