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