Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Plain Vanilla

As Jayne mentioned a while back, Henry and I made homemade vanilla extract for family and friends this past Christmas.  It was fun and super easy, and something that everyone can use!  Also, making your own is WAY less expensive than buying it at the store.  The bottle we have for ourselves will probably last us 5 years (and it doesn't go bad!)

I used Annie's instructions from her blog "Annie's Eats" (amazing food and cooking inspiration - and she lives in Indiana!)  Thank you Annie for this great idea!  Here's what Annie has to say:

"With as much baking as I do, I go through vanilla extract like nobody’s business.  I don’t give a second thought to buying most of my baking staples but I would always flinch a bit when I picked up an $8 bottle (Really?!  For that much?!) of vanilla extract from the store.  It seemed like I was doing so more and more frequently, and something had to give.  Thankfully making your own vanilla couldn’t be easier and it is far more economical than buying the store bought variety at an alarming rate.  Do you have five minutes?  Then you have time to make vanilla.  And now is the perfect time to make your own.  The holidays are fast approaching and bottles of homemade vanilla extract could make wonderful gifts for the bakers in your life.   How cute would these look tied with a little bit of holiday ribbon and a personalized tag?  Be still, my heart.

All you need are vanilla beans, cheap vodka (save the good stuff for drinking), and bottles or jars.  Really just about any container that closes will do.  Fill your containers with vodka, split vanilla beans, and add three beans per eight ounces of vodka.  Close your containers tightly and place them in a cool, dark location for about two months.  Shake occasionally.  That’s it!  Whenever I finish a bottle, I refresh with a new bean or two and refill with vodka.  I have three bottles in rotation in my kitchen and so far it has been just the right amount to keep me stocked.  Try it and your wallet will thank you."
While Annie recommends doing it 2 months in advance, I would actually do it earlier to have ready for Christmas - ours still needed to "brew" for a bit longer after two months.  I followed her advice and tied them with ribbons and made little personalized tags - quick and easy!  And it was nice that it was something you can do way ahead of the holidays and have them ready to go.

I used these bottles from Sur La Table.  They are inexpensive and airtight.

I used these vanilla beans, purchased at a great price on Amazon.  I had never used them before in a recipe and was a little nervous "splitting" them. It was very easy - just ran a paring knife from one end of the bean to the other so that each bean was "open" before I dropped it in the vodka.

I used the cheapest vodka the liquor store had.

My leftover vanilla beans and classy vodka.
If you make a batch now, you could have some ready in your cabinet in a few months, to gift as a thank you, happy birthday, hostess gift, etc.!  I love having small, useful gifts on hand for all of those times I'm not prepared (pretty much every time).

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