The nifty-looking bottle in the picture above was the former home of some very tasty balsamic vinegar. The shape of the bottle and the rubber stopper were so cool, I couldn’t just throw the bottle away after I’d marinated my last steak. That bottle sat around on a pantry shelf collecting dust for months, until one day, I found the perfect use for it: I turned that cool bottle into a home for some homemade gourmet vanilla extract.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
This make-it-yourself vanilla will give a new depth of flavor to your cookies and baked goodies, or when packaged in a pretty container, make a wonderful holiday gift for a friend or family member. But if you want your homemade vanilla in time for the baking and holiday gift-giving seasons, you’d better start soon – perfection takes time.
5 vanilla beans
1 cup vodka (the cheap stuff will work just fine)
First you’ll need to find some vanilla beans. Vanilla beans can be very pricey at grocery and gourmet specialty stores, but I bought 20 vanilla beans on Ebay for the very reasonable price of $4.50 (shipping included). If online shopping isn’t an option for you and you end up paying an arm and a leg for the expensive beans, don’t feel bad about splurging on the quality stuff. With ten vanilla beans, you can keep yourself in gourmet homemade vanilla for a couple of years, at least.
Preparation couldn’t be easier: simply split the beans in half, lengthwise, with a sharp knife. No need to scrape the seeds out, as they add a lot of yummy vanilla flavor. Put them in an empty bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid and add the vodka. You don’t have to worry about shelling out cash for quality vodka – in this case, the cheap stuff won’t affect the flavor a bit.
Cap the bottle, shake it, and put it in a cool, dark place for a month or more, pulling it out and shaking it up every so often. The longer you leave your vanilla extract to steep, the better the flavor and color will be.
While I haven’t tried it yet, I’ve read that a nice, dark rum (like Captain Morgan) used in place of the vodka makes for a sweeter, richer end result. But whichever way you choose to make it, your homemade vanilla extract will likely taste so good, it will have you swearing off icky, imitation vanilla extract forever.