Homemade vanilla is strong, full of flavor with little bits of vanilla essence suspended in it. I had almost always used imitation vanilla when baking, which is mostly water combined with corn syrup, sugar, and artificial flavorings. It was cheap and I didn’t pay much attention to the ingredient label. Then I started reading my food labels and was bummed out by this baking staple ingredient that contained all the artificial flavors and preservatives that I wanted to avoid. I also was bummed that pure vanilla extract was not wallet friendly. Enter homemade vanilla. For about $15 one can buy about 16 oz. of pure vanilla extract. I can make about 32 oz. of homemade vanilla for around $15, if I don’t reuse my vanilla beans. When you factor in that you can reuse your beans up to 3 times, the cost for vanilla goes down significantly. Not only is it delicious and cost effective, but it is also super simple and easy to make.
*Be forewarned. Making vanilla extract is not an instant gratification process. It takes 2-3 months to finish so patience is required.
1 liter rum or vodka
8-9 vanilla beans (I used Madagascar beans)
I am going to include purchasing alcohol as a step. I don’t drink at all and also don’t use liquor in my cooking, so I don’t know the first thing about alcohol. Walking into a liquor store for the first time ever gave me a very overwhelming feeling. Who knew there were so many kinds of vodka and rum? My first time making vanilla I used vodka and learned that I needed an 80 proof (meaning 40% alcohol content) liquor to make vanilla-ing work. I told the lady that I needed if for vanilla extract, got educated about spirits, and walked out with my first alcoholic beverage. With my purchase of rum last week for my second batch, I am now more educated about rum as well.
Pour rum or vodka into a glass quart jar. There will be a little left over which you can pour into a smaller 1/2 pint jar.
Slice vanilla beans lengthwise to open them up. It is not necessary to completely cut them in half as this is just to expose the good stuff on the inside. I also chopped my beans into thirds. Toss cut vanilla beans into the liquor, put a jar lid and band on, and shake gently. The general ratio rule for vanilla beans to liquor is about 6-7 beans per quart of liquor. I put 6 1/2 beans in my quart jar and 1 1/2 bean in the 1/2 pint of liquor that was left over.
Write the date on the top of the lid and place in a cool dark place for 2-3 months. My vanilla sits down in my basement pantry. Shake once every week or two. I found that the vodka that I used the first time smelled pretty potent even after 2 months so I chose to let mine sit longer (3 months). After 3 months the alcohol smell didn’t burn my nose when I sniff tested it and smelled more like vanilla so I called it complete. Once it is done, use it in any recipe as you would normally use the store bough stuff. I have found that it has a little stronger flavor so you may want to experiement a little to find the right ratio for your recipes. I have found it to be excellent in baked goods and very tasty in homemade hot chocolate.
Once your batch is complete remove beans and store it in the cupboard. Reuse beans in a new batch by simply tossing them in another liter of rum or vodka and waiting 2-3 months. It may take a slightly longer steeping period the second or third time around. Homemade vanilla would make a great gift if packaged up in a cute bottle. Enjoy homemade vanilla yourself and give a little away to a friend!
This post is linked to The Creative Paige.