Vanilla. Delicious, necessary, expensive vanilla. I've always been one to buy the real thing, none of that imitation nonsense. But, my goodness, the real stuff can be pricey! Not so bad when you are an occasional baker...but I wouldn't really put myself in that category. When I first started living on my own, and shopping for myself, I loved baking cookies and yummy treats. While I still love and often make those things, I now also find myself using vanilla to make some of our staples, like granola. With my ever-increasing number of things that I make from scratch, I have found my need for vanilla to be ever-increasing as well! So, when I first read about making your own vanilla extract, well, as you can guess, I was more than thrilled!
The book Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making, by Alana Chernila was my initial inspiration. And thanks to her helpful hints, I headed to the internet to find my vanilla beans, since they can be rather pricey in stores. Once they arrived, I plopped them in some cheap vodka and let them do their thing--'cause it's really that easy!! A few weeks later, I had vanilla extract! (Actually, that's not really what happened....What really happened is that I dropped the jar that contained my nearly finished extract, it broke to pieces, and then I proceeded to start over...from the beginning....So a few weeks after that I had vanilla extract!)
I'm now on my second (or third, rather) batch and I'm very happy with the result! The color is a little lighter than the store-bought stuff (which in some instances may be due to a lack of additive coloring...ahem!), but the taste is yummy! And the price is fabulously cheap!
Here my friends, is a simple recipe.
a few vanilla bean skins (you can scrape the little beans/specks out of them first and use that in another recipe, like pudding, or if you're impatient like me, you can just use the whole thing)
cheap vodka (enough to cover the beans)
a jar (I use glass for everything. A 1/2 pint mason works well for this.)
Cut up the beans so that they fit nicely into the bottom of your jar. Cover with vodka. Tightly cover and store in a dark place for at least 3 weeks (the longer the better). Shake/turn the jar every few days so that the beans evenly infuse into the vodka. When your extract reaches a nice carmel color and smells like vanilla, it's ready!! Strain out the vanilla bean particles and pour your finished product into a container to be used and enjoyed! I used an old essential oil bottle for mine and added a cute label. It's not a science...so play around with it! You can keep adding beans and vodka to the mix, as you use it, or start over each time.