Homemade Vanilla Extract; cheap and YUM!

Found this recipe at Just West of Crunchy and I think I may try it as Gifts for Christmas this year!!!

Let’s get this vanilla party started!
Making your own vanilla extract; make is SUPER yum…while saving SUPER dough…seriously! When I first came across this post in November of last year I KNEW I had to prepare and make it for Christmas 2012 gifts. Why it had never crossed my mind before, I have no idea…but how awesome…make your own vanilla extract, save LOTS of money, give it out as super-thoughtful Christmas gifts…that’s a LOTTA wins in my book! But the thing about making your own is, it takes 4-6 months to ‘cure’, or become vanilla extract, so if you are reading this in March…GET TO PREPARING now so you’ll have it ready by Christmas time.

I have been paying $10.95 for a 4oz jar of vanilla extract (the good stuff), because you really can taste the difference in your baked goods and homemade ice cream! This recipe…EVEN using premium liquor…only cost $5.50 to make the same 4oz jar; sweet! You could absolutely make it for much cheaper by using other liquor as well! I decided to get fancy and have some fun with my vanilla, so I used several types of liquor to produce several vanilla extracts; Vodka (Grey Goose), Rum (Bacardi), Tequila (Cabo Wabo Blanco), Whiskey (Maker’s Mark), and Whiskey Bourbon (Eagle Rare).

Depending on how much you want to make for your personal stash and gift-giving purposes; here’s a guide for vanilla bean to liquor ratio:

1lb of vanilla beans to 1 Gallon of Liquor = 32, 4oz bottles of vanilla extract

½ lb of vanilla beans to ½ Gallon of Liquor = 16, 4oz bottles of vanilla extract

So once you decide how BIG you’re going to go; here’s what you need:

Ball (Mason) Jars – I choose Ball because they are Made in the USA…and you can find them everywhere (Walmart, Target, your favorite grocery store) gallon, quart, pint; you choose the size you want depending on what liquor or liquors you’re going to use. For example I used two quart jars (vodka & rum) and three pint jars (tequila, whiskey, & bourbon whiskey).

Vanilla Beans – Based on the research I did, you may want to stay away from any vanilla beans coming from Mexico, due to the fact they add coumarin to the beans, which is banned by the FDA because it can cause liver and kidney damage. So make sure you always buy Mexican vanilla products from a reputable supplier. I purchased my Madagascar vanilla beans from Olive Nation using the coupon code (hhm2012) I found here, during my recipe search…and I am VERY happy with the quality of the beans; they were moist, plump and long. And a bonus; I received the 10% off AND they shipped free (and quickly!)

Liquor – This is where you can have fun! While ‘typical’ vanilla extract is made using vodka or rum, by all means feel free to use tequila, whiskey, bourbon or any other liquor that strikes your fancy! The flavor of the liquor won’t be very pronounced in the final product; it will come through more-so as background notes of flavor!

Time - HA! But seriously, add this to your ingredient list! It takes 4-6 months of your vanilla beans getting drunk on their liquor extractor before you’ll have true vanilla extract; so plan ahead!

Get to it!

I used 2oz of vanilla beans (about 18 individual beans) in the pint jars and 4oz of beans (about 36 individual beans) in the quart jars (and I added 2 extra beans to the dark liquor batches).

Prepare the beans by slicing them straight down the middle, starting an inch down from the top (this way you’ll be exposing the beans to the liquor while keeping the bean connected at that top inch).

My 3yo (4yo next month) was the official "bean hander" and "bean shover in jars"!
Add sliced beans to the jars (I found bending them in half and then placing (shoving!) them inside the jars was the best way to prepare them), so when I added the liquor, all the beans were submerged.

Next, drown those beans! Add liquor; feel free to sample said liquor prior to drowning the vanilla beans, we do prize quality control!

If you’re doing different flavors/liquors, make sure you label the jars so you’ll know which is which when the time comes to reveal the true vanilla extract connoisseur you are!

Now, agitate the jars. In other words; Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture…feel free to get the kids involved in the shaking/dancing!

Tuck the jars away in a dark place, cool if possible. There they’ll sit for 4-6 months and get happy. It’s a great idea to dance (shake!) your jars about once a month, this will ensure maximum flavor in your finished product…so shake it!

When you are ready to bottle, you’ll need amber (dark colored) bottles to store/save/gift your vanilla extract in. These can be found at most Craft and Kitchen stores, and you can also find them online. Please refer to this post for the final bottling step and if you want/need to order your amber bottles online, please click thru their affiliate link in that post; it’s the LEAST I could do to say thank you for sparking my interest and getting me motivated :)