I know, I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and Christmas is too scary to think about, but I want to post about Homemade Vanilla Extract while you still have time to make it! Since I started making my own vanilla in the past year, I never use anything else. I love it! How many things can you do that are easy and involve alcohol without ending up in jail? (Don’t answer that question!)
In my original post about making vanilla, I demonstrated the recipe for one small bottle. If you don’t use much vanilla regularly, this works fine, but if you do a lot of baking (like I do), more is better–and especially if you are making it for gifts. I now make vanilla by the 750 ml bottle. In one fell swoop, you can make a large quantity of vanilla, and since the entire bottle steeps longer with more vanilla beans, the end result is a stronger extract.
Read here for the 2-ounce bottle method. In this post, I’m translating that smaller recipe to a big batch, using a 750 milliliter bottle of vodka. (750 ml is roughly just over 3 cups, so I’m multiplying the original recipe by 12.)
How to make Homemade Vanilla Extract: The Big Bottle Method
750 ml bottle of vodka
12 whole vanilla beans
dark rum (optional)
Using kitchen scissors, cut vanilla beans in half lengthwise, leaving about an inch connected (not cut) at one end, as shown here.
Now simply push the beans into the bottle. The beans are going to displace some of the vodka. This is not a problem! Get some orange juice and drink it! (I’m just kidding! Maybe.)
Screw lid on tightly and store in a cool, dry location. Shake the bottle once or twice a day at first, then just whenever you think about it. It will take a month or two to steep good, but you can use it sooner if you’re in a rush. Stored properly, it will be good for years, and in fact, get better all the time as it grows stronger.
Use a small funnel to transfer the extract to smaller bottles.
I like the extra kick of dark rum in my vanilla extract, so when I poured the first small bottle out, I added rum to the big bottle, using a funnel. The first few times you take out from the big bottle, it doesn’t hurt to add some extra rum or vodka to stretch your vanilla beans–if you let it steep again, it will be just as strong.
Tie raffia or ribbons around small bottles to give as Christmas gifts. Add a handmade or home-printed label. Or, if an avid baker is on your list, they’d love an entire big bottle, and be sure to make one for yourself!
So you can….
….make lots of cookies.
(Note: You can find whole vanilla beans at farmer’s markets, whole foods stores, etc, and there are also many places to order them online.)