Home-made Vanilla Extract

Yield:1 750ml bottle

This recipe is for all the bakers out there who resent paying so much for such a tiny bottle of the real vanilla extract.  Home-made Vanilla also makes a great gift along with some baking mix, chocolate chips, and other baking ingredients.  Package it in a small, liquid-tight bottle with a vanilla bean inside and instructions for your favorite baker on how to renew the extract.

It takes a little patience to "brew" the vanilla, but I think the time is worth it.  The only ingredients are vodka, good vanilla beans and time.  Vodka works because it is flavorless and just about the same proof as vanilla extract.  If you can find a storage bottle that is dark in color (like a sanitized root-beer bottle), the vanilla will turn out better, but a clear bottle works too, just make sure to store it in a dark cupboard.  The vanilla can be renewed easily by adding more vodka and more vanilla beans as desired and it should keep forever.  I like to get the vodka on sale at the grocery store and the vanilla beans at Trader Joe's.  It's a little expensive getting started, but renewing it is less expensive and over time it saves money.  However, I find that I use it recklessly now that I've got a large bottle of it!

1 750ml bottle plain vodka
6 Madagascar or Tahitian Vanilla beans
Split each vanilla bean crosswise, or smaller, depending on the size of the bottle you're going to store the extract in.  Split each vanilla bean piece in half vertically, exposing the seeds.  Place the split vanilla bean pieces into the bottle of vodka.  Seal the bottle and store in a dark cupboard.  "Brew" the vanilla extract for 6-8 weeks, shaking once a day or every couple of days.

The vanilla extract is ready to use after about 6-8 weeks, when it has darkened in color and smells strongly of vanilla.  Use in equal proportions to store-bought vanilla extract in baking recipes.

To renew the extract, add more vodka and another vanilla bean or two.  There's no need to ever remove the previously soaked beans, they will disintegrate over time and add to the vanilla flavor. 

Note:  a smaller batch may be made by using a cup of vodka and one or two vanilla beans.