We have all gotten the lecture about how important it is to buy real vanilla extract and not the imitation extract that is often sold in stores for a fraction of the cost. What we aren’t all told is how incredibly easy and economical it is to make your own vanilla extract at home. Once I read the Cook’s Illustrated post on how easy it is to make vanilla extract – which obviously tastes WAY better than imitation extract and is rated superior to the “real” extract sold in stores – I had to try making my own. I bought a slew of vanilla beans on eBay, reserved a few for my extract, and tossed the rest in the freezer to use at a later date.
A note: The vanilla extract that you buy at the store probably has caramel color added. Your extract will be lighter in color than what you are accustomed to, but it is no less tasty. And all those vanilla beans that get added to your cookies and cakes and ice creams when you use this extract is further confirmation that this is the only extract to use. The proof is literally in the pudding.
Because I already buy huge Costco-sized bottles of vodka to use for this pie crust, I often triple or even six-tuple this recipe.
homemade vanilla extract
recipe from www.cooksillustrated.com
1/2-3/4 cup cheap vodka (Cook’s Illustrated recommends 3/4, which is definitely more economical, but I often use 1/2 because I like a stronger vanilla taste)
1 vanilla bean
Heat the vodka in a covered saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling.
Split the vanilla bean down the middle, scrape out the seeds, and dump the bean and seeds into a glass jar.
Pour the hot vodka over the pod and seeds and loosely place a cap on top to prevent evaporation. After the vodka has cooled, seal the lid and shake vigorously. Shake mixture well at least once per day for a week. After one week, the extract is ready to use, although the flavor will strengthen over time. Store in a cool, dark place. The longer the extract is stored, the darker it will get.