Legacy Vanilla Extract
Vanilla extract is a lovely ingredient that I find to be essential in my kitchen. I make lots of sweets that require it. I use it year around. Summer’s vanilla ice cream right into the winter holiday’s three month baking frenzy, I go through a lot of the stuff. Here’s what drives me crazy. It’s expensive. If you get the good stuff- it’s REALLY expensive. I don’t mind that it is, I just don’t want to pay for it. Okay, maybe that is just my excuse to have a little fun. Lazy fun. Yep! I am making my own vanilla extract.
It’s easy. It’s lazy. It’s hippie-cool-home-made-ricotta-join the commune- artisan- small-batch amazing. All you need is vodka and vanilla beans. Vanilla beans are where the money is in this concoction. The beans are very easily found on the internet (start with Amazon of course) in bulk at a fraction of the price you pay at the spice store, or the grocery store. For extraction you want to get “grade B” beans. Let me show you why.
Here are two grades of vanilla beans. You can see the grade B bean is drier, the grade A bean is oiler. For extract- oily is not as desirable. If you were making vanilla sugar- the oiler bean would be better to coat the sugar. (yes, I did make vanilla sugar too) An oily bean in extract will cause an oil slick. The grade B bean will absorb the vodka better and more readily release it’s goodness.
The recipe is pretty straight forward. There is plenty of debate online about how many beans per cup to use. I have combed through most of it for you dear readers, and I have found a minimum of 6 beans per cup of vodka will give your best results. Anything less is just flavored vodka. (this is also a great idea.. but I digress) So do the math. Get a bottle of vodka, see how many ounces you have. Gather your beans. Split the beans and cut them into thirds. Place the beans in the vodka. Shake the bottle a couple of times and put in a dark place. I keep mine in my heart. Not really, just seeing if you are awake. ;-) I keep mine the coat closet under the stairs. Once a week or so, give the bottle a few shakes, maybe sniff it to see how it’s doing. After two months it will be ready to use. You can strain it and put it into smaller bottles if you wish. If you do, add a bean or 2 into the smaller bottle, to keep the goodness going. (no need to split this bean, just cut it to fit the container. Splitting this bean could get unwanted debris in your recipes.)
Vanilla extract only improves with age. Keep your big bottle going. As you use your extract add more vodka to the “mother” bottle and add a few new beans occasionally. They say it’ll keep for years, as this is a method of preservation. I love that… Legacy vanilla extract!