Each year I test my crafting skills with a new handmade gift for the holidays. These projects have been met with varying degrees of success. A few years back I labored over handmade soaps that ended up looking tacky and wallowing on my friend’s sinks for months. Another year I knitted little finger puppets that no one seemed especially excited about but me. Lately I’ve been sticking to handmade gifts of a more edible variety, and I think I may have finally hit my stride.
This post will be the first of three in an edible homemade gift series. Homemade vanilla extract is easy and fairly inexpensive to make. While it is too late to make your own for this holiday season, the next two gifts in this series will be easy to have ready in a week.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that store bought pure vanilla extract is very expensive. I go through a lot of the stuff in my kitchen, and the cost was adding up. I also found that I was avoiding recipes that called for whole vanilla beans because I couldn’t justify the cost unless it was a special occasion.
Around this time last year I about read about the Organic Vanilla Bean Company that sells low cost vanilla beans through Ebay. I ordered 30 beans for under $10. I highly recommend this economical option. However you decide to get your vanilla beans, making vanilla extract is a simple process. I recently read, and recommend, the excellent and highly detailed instructions at The Traveler's Lunchbox. Read on for my short and sweet method.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
1 liter cheap vodka
10 vanilla beans
Split the vanilla beans down the middle. (Scrape out some of the seeds if you have an immediate use for them, otherwise just toss them all in.) Cap the bottle and give it a shake. Stash the bottle in a dark place, like the back of your pantry or in the basement. Every time you use a vanilla bean, add the pod to the bottle and give it a gentle shake. The vanilla extract should be ready to use in 6 - 8 weeks, but it will keep much longer.