Thursday, November 18, 2010

Make your own vanilla extract

It seems like everytime I buy vanilla extract at the grocery store, I am shocked all over again by the high price.

Nevermind that I went through the same sticker-shock just two months prior. It still manages to surprise me everytime.

I stand there in the baking aisle and think, "Really? But it's such a small bottle!"

But I always suck it up and buy it, because what are my other options? I refuse to buy the cheaper "imitation vanilla extract." Only pure vanilla extract will do.

So when Kent emailed me this article recently, I was elated to try it. Here's what you'll need:

Mason Jars - I already had some of these in my kitchen cabinets. I used the smaller ones that hold about 1 ½ cups.

Vodka - Shocker, I know, but I already had this in my kitchen cabinets, too. It doesn't have to be top shelf stuff. Any vodka will do!

Vanilla Beans - Now these I had to special order. There are lots of sources for beans, but I got mine at The article provides some insight as to the differences in the types of beans. I went with ones from India.

** The recipe is 3 vanilla beans per cup of vodka. **

1) Use kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, splitting them in half, leaving an inch at the end connected. Since I used the shorter jars, I cut the beans in half short-wise first (that's the opposite of lengthwise, right?), before splitting them in half lengthwise.

2) Put the vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid. Cover completely with the vodka.

3) Store in a dark, cool place. Give the bottle a good shake every week or so, and in about 8 weeks, you'll have vanilla extract!

Lasts for years. You can keep topping it off with vodka once in a while as you use it. Just remember to give it a good shake.

These just need a cute homemade tag, and ... voila! ... super cute Christmas gifts! Since these won't be quite ready to use by Christmas, I'll just include the date that it will be ready on the tag ... it's the gift that keeps on giving.

I'm looking forward to watching the vanilla change color over time.

So, to recap ... vanilla beans + vodka + time = vanilla extract ... now that's my kind of math!

... especially when I calculate how much money this will save in the long run!

** Note -- although the taller, corked bottle looks really pretty, I quickly switched it out for a mason jar after realizing that the vodka was leaking through the cork when I shook it. A tight-fitting lid is key.