Saturday, February 11, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I'm all about the DIY lately - deodorant, bread, yogurt - you name it, I'll scratch it on out. It's become my form of protest against the consumer mentality and I find it liberating. Messy, but liberating.

Taking a tip from Jennifer Reese's funny and insightful book, 'Bake the Bread, Buy the Butter', I made my own vanilla extract today. Started it, really.

The book gave me a new awareness of the vanilla bean racket that goes on at the local grocery store. If you buy a jar of McCormick's vanilla beans (which contains 2 beans), you pay something like $11 at Safeway. As advised, I ordered a packet of 10 Tahitian vanilla beans from Amazon and ended up paying $14, including shipping. Big difference. Plus it's fun to get an incredible-smelling package in the mail.

The recipe called for 9 beans, so I had a spare. As luck would have it, I was also making vanilla ice cream. (Mainly because we're having a fancy dinner tomorrow night but mostly because this is the best $50 I have EVER spent.) So, I slyly scraped the #10 pod seeds into the creamy, white batch of heaven and thanked the kitchen gods for a happy coincidence.

HOT TIP: You should absolutely go cut your fingernails before you begin this recipe. The 'seeds' are really a very fine black dust and there isn't much of it, so don't waste it on your nail beds.

Once properly groomed, I cut each pod in half and thoroughly scraped the contents of each into a large Mason jar. Once the pod was more or less empty, I dropped the pod into the same jar. This took awhile and it can be hard to make sure you got all you can out of it. I used a small paring knife, which helped.

After the pod gutting, I measured out 1.5 cups of vodka (cheap is fine, I'm told) or rum, dark or light. (I chose light rum.) You pour the booze into the jar, secure the lid and shake the shit out of it until it looks like murky bong water.

Then, you set the jar on your pantry shelf for the next three months, shaking it now and again, whenever you feel like it. If you are the impatient sort, take your frustrations out on the slow process by picking up the jar, shaking it and yelling at it. This might help.

So, come May 19th, I'll have a yummy batch of vanilla extract at a fraction of the market price - HA!

Another sweet victory....


SUEB0B said...

I had a guy who sells vanilla extract (this was at a food trade show) make the sneery face when I told him I had done this recipe. I don't know if he thought the extract wasn't high quality, or if I was cutting into his profits. Tastes ok to me.

ClizBiz said...

Yeah, if he was selling his own extract, it was likely under the premise that it would be 'so difficult' to do on one's own. I'm thinking this was the source of the sneer.

And if it's good enough for SueBob, it is certainly good enough for me.