Homemade Vanilla

It doesn’t get simpler. It doesn’t get more economical. It doesn’t get better tasting.

Let’s start with economical.

One 8 oz. bottle of Nielson-Massey Madagascar Vanilla Extract costs approximately $20.  Not including shipping, if you buy it online or your time to travel to a place that sells NM or another pure vanilla extract.

25 Grade A Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans from Vanilla Products USA, which I always buy through eBay, cost $16.30, including shipping. (By the way, they always tuck in a free gift. I received 10 Grade B Tahitian Vanilla Beans with my order). 2 750 ml bottles of Fris Vodka cost $22.

And do yourself a favor. Don’t – and I mean DO NOT – buy vanilla beans in the supermarket or specialty store. 2 beans for $8 – that is robbery!

Total cost for homemade vanilla $38.30 – that would be 6 and 1/4 8 oz bottles.

Those 6 and 1/4 bottles would cost you $125 if you bought Nielson-Massey Vanilla.

When I made my first batch of vanilla years ago and did the math – purchased vanilla vs. homemade vanilla – I was astounded by the amount of money I was wasting. And that doesn’t include getting to a place that sells the Nielson-Massey or any pure vanilla extract.

We aren’t even going to bring imitation vanilla into this discussion. Nope. Can’t do it. And you shouldn’t either!

Taste? You may be wondering how there could be a taste difference in pure vanilla extracts – sote bought or your own. It’s all in the alcohol you use.

Some people make theirs with Everclear or grain alcohol. I’m not crazy about the really high alcohol content and don’t think it’s necessary for something I am going to bake with. I always use vodka. Either Fris or Iceberg. I prefer Iceberg. It is a very clean, crisp vodka with no real after taste. I used Fris this time – they were out of Iceberg. Do you know what type of alcohol vanilla manufacturer’s use? Nope. Neither do I. It’s all in the quality control.

Now let’s get to the easy.

I use the bottles the vodka comes in. I pour off a bit and put it into a smaller bottle that’s already been sitting from my last batch.  I have 25 beans – 12 in each bottle and the extra into this ‘overflow’ bottle.

Now I have a method to my madness. I have a small bottle that I keep in my kitchen cabinet that I use whenever I bake. I have a small bottle in the closet where the vodka and beans sits and waits to become the vanilla that feeds into that smaller cabinet bottle - it has a bean or 2 in it (the extra bean goes into here as well as the extra vodka).  And then I have the newest fermenting batch. Very confusing. I know. But it’s my madness. I understand it. You will have to come up with your own madness. Heck, pour a bit off the bottles and make yourself a nice cocktail!

Split the vanilla beans between the 2 bottles. Screw the caps back on good and tight. Shake. Put in a cool dark place. Walk away.

What you see in the background of the picture above is my cabinet, already fermented to a beautiful color, vanilla.

If you think about it, give the bottles a shake once in a while. Two months and you’re good to go! It will last for years. It may take you years to use it! You can put it into smaller bottles and give it to your vanilla-less friends.

I hope you try this and stay away from the over-priced stuff and certainly stay away from th imitation stuff!

Geesh – the word imitation should always give you a hint – STAY AWAY FROM MY FOOD!

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