Vanilla + Liquor = Homemade Extract

I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of vanilla. In general, I find vanilla to be rather boring and unimpressive… but it’s just one of those things that you just can’t live without. Where would icecream be if it weren’t for vanilla? How would cookies taste if not for the added extract? What would perfumes and lotions smell like without that creamy scent?

One of my big gripes with vanilla when I need it for any sort of cooking or baking is the price. Vanilla beans at the market (pretty much any market) go for about $3 to $4 for just one or two beans. That’s practically HIGHWAY ROBBERY!!! Vanilla extract isn’t too expensive, but I always HATED the smell.. seriously smells like vanilla vodka.. GROSS!! I found out recently why it smells like vodka.. because vanilla extract is essentially vanilla beans steeped in vodka.

Ingredients for HOMEMADE vanilla extract!

I don’t really know what got into me, but I was inspired by some internet posts and random searching to make my own vanilla extract. Instructions are all over the internet, but the basic recipe is 3 vanilla beans to 1 cup of liquor (vodka, rum, brandy, etc). The bean should be split and caviar (why do they call it that?) scraped into a glass jar, then covered with liquor. Make sure the beans are completely submerged in liquid. Seal and keep in a cool, dry place. Let steep for at least a month, but the longer the better.

Put the vodka in an old milk bottle first, but didn't fill.. so put it back into the Smirnoff bottle later..

I knew for sure that I wouldn’t be able to justify this project with beans from the market (that would be one EXPENSIVE bottle of vanilla extract), but I found some good resources online for bulk vanilla beans. I got 1/4 lb of Grade A Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans for $15, and got a 10 Grade B Tahitian Vanilla Beans for free (SWEET!!).

These vanilla beans were SUPER plump and FRAGRANT!!

I decided to try three different kinds of liquor to see how each would turn out compared to each other.

Smaller batches with rum and brandy... for a comparison...

Stored away.. see you in six months!

We’ll check in again in about a month to see how it’s going.

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