Homemade Vanilla Extract, Part 1

I’ve been aware of people making their own vanilla extract since I saw a post somewhere about doing it for a wedding favor several years ago. But at the time it just seemed like way more work than I wanted to put into favors.

Then randomly last week for some reason so fleeting that I can’t recall what it was a week later… I decided I wanted to make my own. Benefits of making your own vanilla extract, so I’m told, are:

1) It tastes better. I usually buy decent vanilla (read: Not imitation, and madagascar if they have it at the grocery store which is only sometimes). So I’ll be interested to see if this is much better than that.

2) It is cheaper. A good bottle of vanilla is about $10 for 4oz at the grocery store. Assuming they have good vanilla. This cost me under $20 for 25 oz.

Plus, it just kind of seemed like fun. I love the idea of making my own vanilla extract from scratch! And since one batch makes more than I could reasonably use in a year or two, I decided to give some away as gifts too. I plan to make 4 bottles. One for myself, one for my mom, one for my grandma, and one for B’s mom.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks. (side note: I have no idea what that phrase means).

First I ordered vanilla beans. I bought these:

(from amazon)

Then I thought maybe I ought to figure out wtf I was doing. So I googled for recipes and found that every one is different. They all had various suggestions for how many beans to how much vodka, what types of beans and vodka, and whether you should just split the bean open or split it, scoop it out, and chop it up. What I took from this was that there probably isn’t a wrong way to go. So on my lunch run today I headed to the liquor store and picked this up:

I figured since I had a 750ml bottle of vodka and 7 vanilla beans maybe that would be just the perfect quantities to get the job done. As for how to prepare the extract, take out a pen and paper because this is VERY complicated…..

just kidding.

It was super super easy.

I had 7 beans and I plan to make four bottles of vanilla extract. Because I think it is pretty when there is a full bean floating in a bottle, I decided to leave 4 of the beans in tact. I just used a sharp knife to split them from top to bottom, then scraped out the “caviar” (i.e. vanilla awesomeness) and plopped both into the bottle of vodka.

The other three I decided to chop up. A few of the different recipes I’ve read (I’m not linking to them because there is a seriously a ton of recipes that all say different things) said chopping the beans is best because it gives the vodka more surface area to soak up the vanilla goodness. Okay… makes sense to me. Three beans split, scooped, and chopped.

Then put those in the bottle. See? Very high tech stuff.

Pretty as this was, based on all of the recipes I read I knew that I’d need to shake the bottle with some frequency to keep things marinating. So I gave it its’ first good shake, which left it looking… a bit gross actually.

Ah well. If this blog was powered by the magic of tv (or um, better planning and/or patience on behalf of the resident blogger) the next photo would be of a fully marinated and packaged bottle of vanilla extract.

But it’s not.

So that bottle is sitting in a cupboard right now because you’re supposed to keep it in a dark place. I plan to shake it every day for a week or two, then basically just whenever I remember. Depending on which recipe I looked at the recommendations are to leave it to steep for somewhere between 1-6 months before using it. I plan to give mine as part of Christmas gifts, which is four months away… so let’s hope 4 months is about the right length of time!

Once we hit four months I plan to strain it, portion it into smaller bottles, and bask in the awesomeness of homemade vanilla extract!

To recap:
Vanilla beans – I used 7
Vodka – I used 750ml of Smirnoff (Original)

1) Cut beans. Either slice them open; slice them open and scoop out the caviar; or slice them open, scoop out the caviar, and chop them up. The world is your oyster.
2) Put beans and all bean bits in vodka (tip: pour out a tiny amount of vodka before you start or your bottle will overflow)
3) Replace lid and shake
4) Store in dark place and shake when you remember for the next couple of months
5) Strain and enjoy!

Total cost? $19.81 for 25 ounces of vanilla extract (which will make four 6-ounce bottles).

I’ll let you know how it turns out!

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