Thursday, March 6, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Extract

You might have seen this handy trick on Pinterest or floating around on Facebook.  I decided to give it a try and make Christmas gifts from it this past year.  What is it?  Vanilla Extract.  That yummy golden liquid that smells so fantastic and makes your cookies, cakes, and ice cream burst with flavor.  

I was a little skeptic when I read that all you have to do is soak vanilla beans in alcohol but was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.  Here's how to make it.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

You will need:

Enough vodka to fill whatever container you choose to use
whole vanilla beans - about 4 or 5 per cup of vodka
a dark (preferably glass) container to store it in


Split the vanilla beans length wise with a sharp knife so that the inside beans are exposed.  Place in container of choice.  You may have to cut the beans in half to make them fit in your container.  Fill the container up with vodka making sure to cover the beans completely.  They must be covered at all times so they do not mold.  Give it a good shake and then place it in a cool dark place to "brew".  I put mine in my hallway closet as I don't have a lot of good kitchen cabinet space.  Every few days or at least once a week, shake it up. 

 After 21 days you can use it, however it is best to let it sit for 6 weeks for best results.  You can continue to leave the beans in the container as long as they are still covered by the liquid.  Otherwise, you can do what I did.  I transferred the liquid to another container and then refilled my original container with vodka again.  You can reuse your beans over and over!  You may need to soak them longer the more you use them though.

There are several types of beans you can buy.  Mexican vanilla beans are amazing.  I ended up using Madagascan vanilla beans that I found at Costco for a reasonable price.

For my Christmas gifts, I bought 2 oz Boston Round Bottles from Amazon.  I cut up my beans, which I had already soaked in a larger container, into 1-2 inch pieces and put them in each of the bottles.  Then I poured my extract that had been soaking in my large container into the small bottles and finished it off with a personalized label with instructions on when to use the extract.  They turned out pretty cute if I say so myself!

You can use this the same way you would use any other vanilla extract in your recipes.  By keeping the beans in the bottle, you will get this tiny little black specks from the beans.  I personally LOVE this in my cookie and homemade ice cream.  However, if the specks creep you out, you can always strain it through a coffee filter to get a clear liquid.  

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