I'll bet you didn't know you could make your own vanilla. It is super easy, and delicious, plus you always have plenty on hand whenever you need it.
Because I bake a lot, I typically have one bottle that I'm using and one bottle that is in process. When I'm talking about bottles, I'm not talking about the bottles you see in the store.
I'm talking about bottles of bourbon! Yes, 750ml bottles!
One bottle will last me a couple of years, so if you aren't an avid baker, you may opt for a smaller bottle, or this will keep for years. You can make a big batch and have it whenever you need vanilla.
Here's my recipe:
1 bottle Bourbon - choose the variety that suits you.
You want something that is at least 70 proof or 35% alcohol (the bourbon above is 45% alcohol). Other options are
Vodka - which is flavorless so the vanilla comes through.
White Rum - produces a slightly sweeter* vanilla
Dark Rum - produces an even sweeter heavier vanilla. Good for deep tasting dishes
Bourbon - clean so the vanilla comes through nicely, but adds a depth beyond Vodka
* Sweeter doesn't mean sugary. It brings out more sweet notes of the vanilla.
10 Vanilla Beans per 8 ounces of liquid - for my 750 ml bottle that is about 25-30 beans depending on size.
There are all different types of vanilla beans available from stores and even Amazon (that is where I get mine). I prefer Madagascar Vanilla Beans but if you want something slightly less expensive you can choose Tahitian Vanilla Beans. This year I'm going to experiment with Mexican and potentially Indian Vanilla Beans to test the difference. Stay tuned for updates.
Open the bottle and depending on how full the bottle is you may need to pour out a bit so you can get the beans into the bottle.
Cut the beans in half if they are long, and then split them down the middle to expose the seeds.
Stuff them into the bottle making sure to scrape any stray seeds off the board and knife into the bottle.
Close the bottle and shake to mix.
Place in a coolish, dark cabinet. Give the bottle a shake once a week for at least the first two months.
The vanilla can be used after 2 months, but I find it much better after 6-12 months. That is why I always have a bottle in the process.
If you don't want to use a full bottle of alcohol, or you have alcohol you want to use up, you can certainly make your vanilla in a different container. It has to be glass, and I would recommend a small opening so the alcohol doesn't evaporate. You can get a lot of different small bottles online and in craft stores.
I have one of those small bottles with my baking supplies. I keep refilling it from the larger bottles.
This couldn't be easier and is so worth the effort. Since I started making vanilla ten years ago, I haven't bought vanilla...and I never run out! Give it a try. It can also make a terrific gift for your favorite bakers.