Seriously, if you have not tried cooking or baking with homemade vanilla extract, then you are really missing something special AND you’re paying way, way too much for what you’re getting. Plus, there’s still time to package this up for holiday gifts!
As many culinary-related projects I do, I was first turned on to making my own vanilla extract from my friend Tamre. We both had a desire to make our own due to being tired of paying so much for it at the grocery store.
If you do want to make your own vanilla extract, it is important to find the right vanilla beans. Even my beloved Penzey’s can’t buy me over on this one – they sell 4 beans for $10, just like Kroger, Walmart (if you can find them there), Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, you name it. (Although if you can correct me, go ahead, but basically you buy very few of them for quite a lot of money).
Tamre found a deal on eBay through Vanilla Products USA. We purchased 1 pound of Grade A Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans for $49.94, and divided the price between 4 people. Each of us ended up with a LOT of vanilla beans, probably 50 or 60 or so. You really can’t beat that. And the beans were great quality – long, fat and moist, not thin or brittle.
Here’s what you do:
Per pint of vanilla extract made, you need 4 vanilla beans. Use a ball jar, go to the Container Store and grab a fancy ketchup-like jar or flask (like Tamre did for me as a gift) or really whatever you have on hand that is glass and a tight-screwing lid. For this second time around, I went with a ball jar.
Using a sharp knife, cut a slit into the vanilla beans lengthwise, then cut the beans in half. Do this for all 4 beans, and place them in your jar. Pour your alcohol of choice (can be vodka, bourbon or whiskey) over the beans and seal the jar. Place in a dark cabinet for 4 months. Voila, you have just made vanilla extract.
Once you taste homemade vanilla extract you’ll understand why you want to take the extra effort to do this. It’s almost as if I never really tasted vanilla before. I’d baked with it in cookies, but homemade vanilla just stands out so much more. It may require you to use a little less than what a recipe normally calls for, but your tastebuds will figure it out and let you know. And, you’ll realize how much cheaper it really is to make it on your own!