Good quality, pure vanilla extract is crucial to good baked goods. And it is not inexpensive. A good friend winters in Texas and she brings me awesome vanilla from Mexico. I use her Mexican vanilla all the time. When people try to replicate some of my recipes they notice subtle taste differences between what I baked and what they baked. I’m convinced it is the vanilla. I recently came across instructions for making your own vanilla on the King Arthur blog. And decided I would try it. It’s not complicated at all.
Homemade vanilla consists of vanilla beans and liquor. You want to make sure your vanilla beans are fresh. They should be pliable and soft to the touch. According to King Arthur there are three kinds of vanilla beans that are readily available. Sharing his descriptions.
“TAHITIAN: Contains floral notes as well as subtle cherry and almond overtones; pairs well with fruity desserts and has a strong vanilla aroma.
MEXICAN: Described as woodsy with hints of spice. This vanilla is exciting, a perfect choice to bring something new to your baking.
MADAGASCAR: A classic vanilla flavor that’s described as creamy and sweet. Often used to make vanilla extract; it’s familiar and comforting.”
The vanilla bean descriptions reminded me of the labels on wine bottles! I chose the “familiar and comforting” beans from Madagascar.
You also choose the kind of liquor you want to use for your base. Something that has a neutral flavor like vodka or brandy or rum. You want to steer away from spices or smoky flavors that may overpower the vanilla. No cucumber vodka or Captain Morgan.
You want to make sure you have clean bottles/jars with tight fitting lids. The bottles I used hold 8 ounces. I used 2 1/2 beans in each jar. You want to slit your beans to expose the seeds. If you don’t want to have “flecks” in your vanilla you can scrape out the seeds. I choose to leave the seeds in for a richer vanilla flavor. Once you’ve slit the beans put them in the bottles.
Add your liquor of choice to the jars. I used a funnel because it’s sinful to spill and waste liquor! I used rum in one jar, vodka in the other. Make sure your beans are totally submerged. If they are not, cut the beans into shorter pieces and return to the bottle.
Now you wait. For at least 3 months. Store your bottles in a cool, dark place. King Arthur says the refrigerator is too cold (and it’s light in there when you open the door) so consider the basement or another area of your house that is relatively cool and dark. Don’t store them in the kitchen which is typically the warmest room in the house. If you left the seeds in the pods like I did, shake the bottles gently every week or so. This will help deepen the flavor,
NOTE: You don’t have to use top shelf liquor. I used liquor that I serve at home. You do want to make sure that you have good quality, fresh beans. Finally, you don’t want to leave this somewhere where someone might pour themselves a shot!
I’m excited for the end result. Last year a lot of people got homemade laundry soap for Christmas. This year it may be homemade vanilla. Worst case scenario, I’ll have to come up with some great vanilla cocktail recipes!