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!

BBQ Sauce

This is my Mom’s recipe – with a few changes over the years from me. A work in progress, so to speak. My Mom never really struck me as the BBQ sauce type. But, there one weekend, was the most wonderful BBQ sauce I had ever tried.

How she came up with the recipe is a mystery.

You could blame it on the rain and cold.

On boredom at being at the beach in the cold and the rain.

On the LONG drive from the beach to the stores, and realizing just before dinner that you had no BBQ sauce.

You can even blame it on not wanting to deal with the ‘weekend people’ in town – especially cleaning out the grocery store (and liquor store, truth be told!) of all the good stuff by Friday afternoon.

I prefer to think that there is a far more altruistic reason – wanting the best for one’s family, a better flavor, a more healthy version.

  • 4 T dry mustard
  • 2 C cider vinegar
  • 4 2/3 C ketchup
  • 1/2 C Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 2 T tabasco
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 t fresh ground pepper

This recipe can easily be halved. If you make the whole recipe you need a LARGE bowl! I always keep the empty ketchup bottles to store the BBQ sauce – makes my life SO easy! I have also switched in brown sugar for the white and molasses for the honey.

Place the mustard in a bowl. Pour in vinegar and stir until mustard dissolves.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined.

Store in fridge in an airtight container.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

How easy was that!?

Dulce de Leche

Believe me when I tell you, it don’t get much easier than this!

I would have had this post done sooner, but my fingers have been sticking to the keys.

You’ll see. Try it. The horror stories you hear about exploding cans are simply not true.

This obsession started with a phone call from a friend of mine. She lives in Ishkabibble. She wanted to make a dulce de leche cake for her husband. This call was from a supermarket – the 4th in Ishkabibble that she had been to – and she was in full on panic mode. My simple answer – make dulce de leche yourself.

It’s easy, said I. At least from what I read – I had not yet DARED try this. I had this particular recipe – if you want to call it that – cut out for ages. But every dulce de leche recipe done with this process comes with warnings about exploding cans!  EXPLODING CANS!

You remember me? The person who leaves the slow cooker going and spends the rest of the day at work worried that every siren going past the office (that is 6 miles away from home) is racing toward her house to put out the fire caused by the unattended crock pot? And now I am supposed to deal with EXPLODING CANS!

Well, she did it. Said it was delightful. OMGEEEEEE-GOOD, in fact.

So what’s a little exploding can between friends.

Suck it up, Buttercup. And so I did just that.

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk

Really, 1 ingredient.

Take the label off the can. Yes, you can throw it out, you don’t need it.

Place can in a pot large enough so that the can will be covered when you fill the pot with water. Also, have a second pot filled with water at a light simmer. You will need this to add water to the pot with the can so that the can stays covered with boiling water.

Bring to a boil and cook for 90 minutes. You can adjust the time to achieve a lighter or darker result.

Here’s the tricky part, and the part with EXPLODING CAN FEAR – Make sure the can always remains covered with water, adding any when necessary.

Remove pot from the heat and drain. Set the can on the counter and allow it to cool completely.

Open can and enjoy.  Not the right word – indulge, dive in, gobble with greedy spoonfuls, become sticky faced, sticky fingered! You may need to make 2 cans!

Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge. Should last at least 1 week (HAHAHAHAHAHA). Use it straight from the fridge, warm it in the microwave, and in any recipe calling for dulce de leche.

Me? Pour it over icecream and I am a happy girl!



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