A few months ago I spotted a post on Joy the Baker about making your own vanilla extract. What?! Why??? Yes, I know–it’s a little weird to make vanilla extract, considering you can buy it easily just about everywhere. But I was honestly a little curious about how it would be if I made it myself–and it seemed like it could be a lot better than store bought. Worth a try, right?
doing the prep work in September.
Late in September I gathered all the supplies up (vanilla beans, purchased at a local kitchen supply store; 80 proof vodka, and a jar) and set out to get it going so it’d be done by the time I started baking Christmas cookies. I faithfully followed the pointers in the post and was sure to shake the little jar that was stashed away in the pantry every week for the two months it needed to age. I even stuck a pretty label on the front so I wouldn’t forget when I started it, since I tend to be a bit scatter-brained.
see how light it was before? the extract got to be so dark and rich after 8 weeks of aging!
Right before Thanksgiving I just couldn’t stand it any longer, and popped the top open to sniff it–it was the best smelling vanilla I had ever smelled! (And was subsequently passed around to anyone I could grab to confirm that it was indeed marvelous.) I also needed a teaspoon of it for some cream cheese icing for cupcakes and I have to say, it was a huge success. Now I just need to get cracking on my cookie baking and using up some more of this! I didn’t make a huge batch this time, since I wanted to see if it worked before using more vodka and investing in lots of vanilla beans. (They’re pretty expensive, but I’ve seen them on Amazon.com for reasonable prices. Vanilla beans, in my opinion though, are one of those ingredients that are really worth it!) But I think perhaps next Christmas I’ll plan far enough ahead, buy some pretty bottles and give it to friends who bake. It really is loads better than the store bought… Definitely worth the wait and patience (something I don’t excel at!).
Amy Karol also recently posted about homemade vanilla and used a slightly different technique (it has to “brew” for 6 months instead of 2). She also listed some helpful links for bottles, so be sure to check out what she wrote. Would you ever consider making your own vanilla extract? Have you ever done it before? Got a favorite brand of vanilla that is not worth missing? Please share!