Been down the baking/spice aisle lately? Seen those prices?
(Know how deadly heart disease is? I believe sticker shock has contributed to more cases of heart disease than we realize. Someone should look into that.)
But back to the baking/spice aisle. Did you know you can make your own vanilla extract at home for... considerably less than you pay for those tiny bottles in the store?
You can. Here's how.
First, know this: vanilla extract is essentially vanilla macerated in alcohol. That's fancy talk for "you float vanilla beans in vodka, let it sit, and call it vanilla extract". And that's what you do. Take alcohol (vodka or rum, usually), add vanilla beans, let it age in a cool, dark place, and you're set.
Yes, it may seem like you're ending up with a lot of vanilla. So bottle some up in little bottles and give it away for Christmas. Or better yet, bake tons of goodies with it and give those away for Christmas.
Just think of the lives you may save and friends you may make.
How To Make Vanilla Extract
3 cups alcohol (vodka or rum)
6-8 vanilla beans (depending on size)
Jars or bottles with tight-fitting caps or lids
1. Sterilize jars, if using. Or use the bottle the alcohol comes in, as I did here.
2. With a sharp knife, beginning about an inch from the top, split the vanilla beans lengthwise in half.
3. With clean hands, stuff vanilla beans in jar or bottle, taking care to cover the beans completely with alcohol.
4. Give the jar a good shaking, then place in a cabinet in the coolest part of your kitchen.
5. Let the vanilla beans do their thing for about 6 weeks. Shake your jars or bottle every week or two. Vanilla will be ready to use in 6-8 weeks. Yay you!
Now some facts: Assuming you use sterilized jars and fresh beans and store your stash in a cool, dark place, your vanilla extract should be good indefinitely. Do not try to can this, as alcohol is extremely flammable. When you start running low, simply add more beans and alcohol to your bottle and keep going. If you can taste the alcohol after 6-8 weeks, allow your jar to cure a few weeks longer... the alcohol taste will evaporate. And no, you can't use water in place of vodka or rum; alcohol acts as a preservative and takes care of any contamination worries.
Happy holiday baking! -Brin