I got the brilliant idea to do homemade Christmas gifts for relatives last year. It was a lot more effort than I planned and I ended up giving up on most of the ideas. But! ONE idea panned out so well I’m now on round three so I thought I’d share it with you since I have yet to mess it up and it’s pretty much amazing.
For real, two steps.
Step one: buy vanilla beans and vodka. Originally, I bought one jar of vanilla beans (that held two beans) but have since upped the beans to four. Two worked fine, I’m just impatient so I thought more beans meant faster vanilla. That has not shown to be true yet. For vodka, cheap and nasty is fine. I started with Dark Eyes and have graduated to the next step up, but it doesn’t really matter. Go Grey Goose if you want to, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
Step two: Slice open vanilla beans, put them in a jar, pour in vodka, seal, and wait.
Wait three to four months. One recipe I read when I started this experiment said three weeks but that is a complete lie. I opened the jar up after three weeks and I had vodka with a vanilla bean garnish. There was nothing extract about about it. So I waited and waited, slowly watching the color change from clear to dark brown. And when it finally looked like vanilla, I opened up the jar and it smelled like vanilla too.
The key is patience, because it seems to take forever. When it’s finally done, strain out all the beans and vanilla floaters, bottle, and use.
I’m not a vanilla snob by any stretch of the imagination, BUT I can tell a major difference when I bake with this homemade vanilla. It is shocking how good it is. Like you won’t believe it until you try it.
My first jar made five bottles (like these) that I gave to grandmas and great grandmas for Christmas. What’s great about the beans is you can just put all of them back in the jar, fill it up with vodka again, and you’re already working on another batch. I’m currently on batch number three and the vanilla beans haven’t lost their power yet.
Altogether, I spent about $16 and ended up with four large bottles of pure vanilla extract. If you’ve been grocery shopping recently, you know that’s a heck of a deal. And it took about three minutes of actual work. The hardest part of this gig is the waiting. So if you can do that, you’ll end up with some delicious homemade vanilla extract and plenty to share!