Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vodka and glass bottles for homemade vanilla extract! The glass bottles came from a set of mini wine bottles (I can never finish a bottle of wine and this size is perfect for cooking). July 2013.
I dub July "DIY" month. The summer is a great time to tackle those little projects that beckon during the year, and for some of us at least, there's a little bit of time, or just more sunlight each day, to get things done.
The vanilla bean hierarchy. July 2013. 

I suggest starting a batch of homemade vanilla extract, which is:
-Less expensive.
-Stupidly easy.
-You get to shake stuff, which is always super fun.
- It makes a great gift.
Scraping the vanilla pod. July 2013. 

It's surprisingly easy- just alcohol and vanilla beans. When I was little, I was curious about this mysterious "essential" ingredient in all of baking that imparted its delicious amber kiss to everything it touched. I had no idea it was alcohol based. It explains why a friend of mine always added about half a jar of it when making french toast... In short- the hardest thing about this is buying the ingredients, and then not forgetting that you have it during the eight weeks!
Vanilla bean guts! I mean seeds! July 2013.
Vodka or bourbon
Vanilla beans
Glass jar (can be an old peanut butter jar, old maple syrup jar, whatever you have)


Starting with a paring knife, run a slit down the length of the vanilla pod. Next, gently pry it open to expose all the tiny vanilla bean seeds. Taking the side of the paring knife, blade facing down, gently scrape the seeds away from you. Now you should have a little pile of seeds, and the bean pod. Excellent. Prepare as many vanilla beans as you are using. I've seen different ratios on the web but two beans per cup of alcohol is a good general rule of thumb. I know in the pictures here I only have one bean, which is because that's all I had to work with (oops!). I'll let it steep a little longer, and I think it'll end up tasting just fine. These things happen sometimes...  

Take your bottle of choice and fill it with booze. You're doing great so far. Watch out for spills! Now insert the vanilla pods (you can fold them if your jar is short and squat), and then the seeds. Close it firmly, and store in a dark cool cabinet in your kitchen. Once a week you can gently shake it to make sure that things are moving along, and in eight weeks (at least) you'll be able to start using it! I cheated and used some at five weeks, and it was good. I just couldn't wait! The flavor gets only more intense and aromatic with time, and when your alcohol gets low as you use it you can always refill it.

Once your vanilla extract is ready you can strain it. I prefer not to, because I like to let the vanilla pod continue to infuse into the liquor, and I also like the little dark brown speckles that give baked good that "real vanilla" look.

I'll have a few more DIY ideas for y'all this month ; ). Let me know if you try this one out!

The final product- going into my kitchen cabinets for about a month! Gently shaken every once in awhile. July 2013.

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