Monday, June 9, 2014

DIY: Vanilla Extract

Growing up I remember my mom always telling me about one of my one aunt's friends who made her own vanilla. As a kid I remember thinking this lady must be pretty talented and obviously super sophisticated. Now that I've grown and have learned (am learning) my way around the kitchen I decided to try out this DIY project for myself. After some research, this wasn't such an intimidating task at all! All I needed was some booze (check), vanilla beans (check, thanks Costco), and little jars (basically we're speaking my love language here people!) The type of liquor didn't really seem to matter flavor-wise. Vodka was a pretty traditional choice, but rum and bourbon were also recommended. Being a Bacardi and Diet kind of gal, I obviously chose my go-to white rum. I found 4 oz glass bottles off Amazon for pretty cheap and my Costco started selling whole vanilla beans this fall which was what pushed me over the edge to try this experiment. I even put a semi-cute label on my jars (totally should have reached out to my BFF's graphic artist husband for a cuter time, since there will definitely be a next time!)

Vanilla Extract
Makes 6 4-oz bottles

12 Vanilla beans, whole
3 cups white rum (vodka, bourbon, etc.)
6 4-oz glass bottles with lids

  1. Prep the bottles by washing and letting them air dry.
  2. Slice the vanilla beans in half and then split open length-wise to expose the caviar.
  3. Place four vanilla bean halves into the jars.
  4. Pour ~1/2 cup of rum on top of the vanilla beans until the bottle is almost full.
  5. Place the lid on the bottles, give them a shake, then put them in a cool, dark place.
  6. Every few days for the first week give them a gentle shake and put them back.
  7. Patience...lots of patience...
  8. You'll want the mixture to steep for at least a month, but it only gets better with age! (Mine have been going since January so they have really beautiful color to them.)
Now, some folks will make all the vanilla extract in a larger jar and then strain out the vanilla beans so that the vanilla has a "cleaner" look to it. I chose not to do that because I love the little flecks of the caviar, also in case the recipients of the jars would like to continue adding liquor to their bottles to make additional vanilla (once you've used a bit, you can totally add more liquor to the existing vanilla extract...those vanilla beans still have lots of good flavor left in them!)

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