I bake quite a bit, and vanilla is something that I use a lot of. Pure vanilla extract in the store is so expensive, and you never really know what you are going to get. So I decided that I would make my own. This is also something that would make a wonderful Christmas gift, so make plenty so that you can give some away!
This is what you need:
whole vanilla beans
vodka or rum
glass bottles or containers
I purchased my vanilla beans on e-bay, but you can also get them on amazon. I found they cost a lot less here than purchasing them in the grocery store. You only need to get B grade beans to make vanilla extract. Purchasing gourmet or fancy grade A will not make a better vanilla. This link for Wikipedia will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about vanilla. But scroll down, and it explains the different grades and types of vanilla so you can make your choice of beans.
I used 5 vanilla beans to 750 ml of vodka. You can vary these amounts depending upon your taste and how much you want to make.
Slit your vanilla bean down the center of one side, and scrape out the pulp:
Slit your vanilla bean
Scrape the pulp out with your knife
Place the pulp into your bottle. Next add the bean and the vodka. Close up the top with a cork or a lid.
Pulp, vanilla and vodka in the bottle
Now place your bottle in a cool dark place. This will take about 2 months to be a nice strong vanilla. Take your bottle and shake it up about once a day to distribute the vanilla, which will settle on the bottom of the bottle. You can start using it any time that you think it is strong enough. I have read several different article on it, and it seems to be a matter of preference. I figure that the longer it sets, the better.
Vanilla at 2 weeks.
This is what mine looks like at 2 weeks.
Before using the vanilla, strain it through several layers of cheesecloth to remove the bits from the pulp. This will never go bad or spoil.
You can take the pods from the beans and place them back in your bottle and keep them there if you prefer, or put them in a pint jar with some sugar, and make some vanilla sugar for baking as well!
So gather up all of those bottles you have been saving from your wine, or picking up at garages sales and thrift stores and start making your own vanilla!
Make your own lemon extract as well! Click here for the link.