Monday, September 28, 2015

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Is there anything more delicious smelling than Vanilla Extract? Hmmm that is a very good question, my friend. Not many smells make me want to eat right now. Okay popcorn and bacon, but that's a whole different story. I'm talking of baking, and Christmas gifts. Homemade Vanilla Extract as Christmas Gifts.

Thought that would get your attention. This is so easy to make that it shouldn't even be considered "making" the gift.
One key element, it does take some time to sit, at least 2 months. The longer it sits, the better it will become. The only items needed are: Vanilla Beans, Vodka (At least 70 proof), and Bottles. How easy is that?

The bottles that I used are an 8 ounce Boston Round Bottle, but there are many different size and shape bottles available. Have you ever ordered bottles? Nor had I until this project. A nice website, Specialty Bottle, has a large variety of bottles, at very reasonable prices. After searching for quite some time, they seemed to have the best prices.

Delivery was fast. So fast that I was unprepared when they arrived 2 days later. Only because I wanted to get started right then, but had to wait for a few days.

My initial thought was purchase vanilla beans around town and........ummmm not a good idea. Vanilla beans are pretty costly, but not so much when purchased in bulk. Amazon had good prices, you can usually find what you want on that site for less. However, not having any idea about purchasing Vanilla Beans, I went to a reputable source to do some learning and decided to purchase from the same site. Beanilla has a variety of beans and lots of information.

Madagascar Vanilla Beans seem to be one of their most popular bean. There are different varieties of vanilla beans, and the website does a wonderful job of telling of the difference in flavors.

With all of the components gathered, time to get started on this extremely labor intensive easy gift making process.

Opening the vacuum sealed pack of vanilla beans was so much fun. The beans smelled awesome, I just wanted to lick one of them. I refrained, that would be a little gross. Not having cooked with the whole vanilla bean before, surprise hit me at how plump and juicy they were. 

You can see that they kind of glisten. They are very moist, more so than I imagined they would be upon opening the package.

All of the vanilla bean has to be covered by the vodka, therefore, depending on the size of your bottle, you may need to cut the bean in half. However, if your bottle happens to be very tall, you may not need to do so. In either case, the Beanilla website's recipe says to cut the bean lengthwise to expose the inside of the bean, which contains the "caviar" (seeds) to the vodka as well.

After find this recipe in many different locations and finding that all of them had different ratios of vanilla beans to vodka, I compromised and went with a mid range. There were ranges of 3 whole beans per 1 cup of vodka (At least 70 proof) to 8 whole beans per 1 cup of vodka. Since I had over 3 months from the starting time until Christmas, I went with 5 beans per 1 cup of vodka (At least 70 proof). Now we'll just hope for the best.

After cutting the beans and my bottles had been quickly sterilized and cooled prior to starting the process, it was time to start the fun stuff. Yes!!! 

Start by getting a glass, adding ice cubes, 1 - 2 shots of vodka, and any mixer that suits your fancy!! Just kidding. Not part of the process at all, however, if it does suit your fancy, go for it. I won't judge you.

Seriously, just put your beans in the bottles, add vodka (At least 70 proof), put the lid on, shake it a bit, and that's it. Honestly, that's it. How easy is that?

Now it's time to sit back, relax and wait for the miracle of the process to occur over time. My readings have told me that the longer it sits, the better it becomes. (Too bad that doesn't apply to exercising.) Shake them a few times a month and keep waiting.

There are two methods of the end of the process, months down the road. You can strain it through a cheese cloth to remove the pods and seeds, in which case making in larger jars, like mason jars, is probably a better idea, and then once strained, poured into the bottles to give as gifts. 

The method I chose to use is keeping everything in the bottle that you are giving away. This gives the recipient the opportunity to keep their vanilla extract going. By adding more vodka to the bottle when it has been used, one can continue to make more vanilla extract. The Beanilla website says that it's a good way to have homemade vanilla extract on hand for years to come. What an awesome idea!!

As you can see from the fuzzy picture above, my batch was started on September 10th. Plenty of time to let it set in a cool, dark place, away from the sunlight. This year on my "Crafting Weekend", I will make labels for the bottles, and by Christmas time, my gifts will be complete. Knowing myself pretty well, by then I'm sure the need to add something with the bottle of extract will gnaw heavily at me. So time to start thinking about that. 

So glad you stopped by. Come back soon.

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