Thursday, October 4, 2012

Vanilla Extract

I first made my own vanilla extract as Christmas gifts for friends and family 2 years ago...and I gave every jar of it away, so I never had a chance to test it out.  A few months ago, I decided to make myself a jar of extract. I don't think I can ever go back to the store bought stuff again! If you are looking for nice, homemade Christmas gifts, I highly recommend this one. You can make it as cheap or expensive as your budget allows. I've seen recipes where it is one vanilla bean in a half pint jar with one cup of very inexpensive vodka (probably the cheapest route) and I've seen versions that call for 25 beans in a pint jar with high-quality bourbon (definitely more expensive). Christmas is still about 3 months away, but if you want to give extract as a gift, I recommend starting now. It needs a few months (usually 3 or more) for the vanilla flavor and smell to really come through the alcohol.  I posted the recipe I used for this jar (which I've been using for about 4 months). In my experience, extract that uses vodka is ready to use sooner than extract that uses bourbon, since bourbon has a stronger flavor and scent.  The bourbon, however, gives the extract a much more rich and complex flavor than the vodka, so it really is up to you.  I also plan on adding more bourbon to the jar when it starts getting low.  I used quite a few beans and they still have a strong vanilla scent to them. When I have a recipe that calls for a split vanilla bean, or I make a glaze for a coffee cake, I like to scrape a few beans out of a pod from the extract, just to add a little something extra.  I order my vanilla beans online. People have strong opinions about vanilla beans...I don't. I ordered what was on sale the day I needed beans.  This is easy and worth the time and money. If you give it as a gift, make sure you save a jar for yourself!

Vanilla Extract
makes about 1 pint

8-12 large vanilla beans, split, with some of the little tiny beans scraped into the jar (I used 12)
14 ounces bourbon or vodka (I used bourbon)

Place the vanilla beans and alcohol in a pint-sized mason jar. Add the lid and place in the pantry for at least 2 months (3 if you are using bourbon).  Give as gifts or keep for yourself. Use in any recipe that calls for vanilla extract.