DIY vanilla extract

As I’m sure you all can imagine, I go through vanilla extract around here like a CHAMP.  A couple of years back, I would just buy the 16 ounce bottle at Costco, and I was pretty happy with it.  It is certainly cheaper than grocery store vanilla, and the quality seems to be pretty good.  But once I realized you could make your own vanilla extract, relatively cheaply and extremely easily, all bets were off.

I first made vanilla extract 2 years ago, to give as Christmas gifts.  At the time I made a large double batch to keep for myself, and I’ve been rotating through the same 2 bottles since then.  As soon as I use up one bottle, I just add a couple more vanilla beans, top it off with some more vodka, and let it sit while I use my second bottle.  Eventually I’ll probably try to pull all those beans out of there and start fresh.  The quality is great, and the fact that I always have an extra bottle laying around – plus the ingredients to make more – works perfectly for me!

All you need is 3 vanilla beans per 8 ounces of vodka.  I buy my vanilla beans in bulk, from Amazon.  They’re infinitely less expensive this way than trying to buy them at the grocery store.  I just received an order a couple weeks ago, and the beans were awesome – really plump and juicy.  The beans I use are Madagascar; you can certainly use Tahitian or Mexican – each should give the extract a slightly different flavor profile.  In addition, you can substitute bourbon for the vodka if you wish.  I also use fairly cheap vodka, and haven’t had any issues or concerns in doing so.

To make your extract, split the vanilla beans lengthwise (you only want to cut through 1 side of the bean, leaving the other side intact).  Place the beans in a clean bottle and cover with alcohol.  Store the bottle in a cool, dark place for at least 1 month, shaking occasionally.  The longer the bottle sits the stronger the extract’s flavor will become.  Don’t worry about any little “floaties” hanging around in there – they’re just yummy vanilla seeds!

Even though we have less than a month to go before Christmas, these would still make a perfect foodie gift.  Just let the recipient know it will need to sit a little longer to reach its full potential :)

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