Homemade Vanilla Extract
You may not have ever thought about making your own vanilla extract, but it's incredibly easy to do.
Why would you want to make your own vanilla extract? Well, it's less expensive for one thing. For another, you'll know that it's 100% real vanilla extract - no artificial ingredients or flavorings. You'll also be able to make your own custom blend by varying or combining different types of vanilla beans or alcohol.
The only required ingredients in homemade vanilla are alcohol (the drinking kind, not the rubbing kind) and vanilla beans.
Here's how to do it:
Take 4-5 whole vanilla beans, split lengthwise and add to a pint of 35% or higher alcohol content (that's 70 proof or greater). Any type of alcohol can be used, but vodka is often used because of its neutral flavor. However, bourbon, rum, brandy or cognac are also popular and can add additional nuances of flavor to your own custom blend.
Age for at least 8 weeks to allow the volatile compounds of the vanilla to become fully infused into the alcohol. After this point, the beans may be removed, but if left in the bottle the flavor will continue to deepen and evolve in intensity and complexity. Just be sure to keep the bean completely submerged in the alcohol. The resulting extract will last for years in a tightly sealed container.
As an added bonus, after your extract has finished aging, you can remove the spent beans, air-dry them, and add them to a jar of sugar to make your own vanilla sugar (great for baking).
For a modest investment, you can make enough high-quality vanilla extract to last you for years. It also makes a great gift for the cooks on your list.