The first rule of blogging is to blog regularly. Well, you can’t tame this rebel because it’s been over a year since I last sat down to blog. Whew. Like most issues of procrastination, the longer you put it off the more overwhelming the task feels. But several weeks ago I made homemade vanilla and posted some pictures on my Facebook. I had so many people ask me how to do it, I thought now would be a good time to wipe the dust of my creaky blogging fingers and give a brief tutorial.

Vanilla Extract

This is SO easy and makes such a great gift. I made several bottles last year and I wish I made more. I have used up all of the vanilla I kept for myself and it is so much better than the store bought imitation variety. Also, it is pennies to the dollar of what you spend for real vanilla in a store.

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Here’s the rub. Real vanilla is better the longer is ages, so if you are thinking ahead to Christmas gifts, now is the time to make this!

Sidenote: Sorry for the sketchy pictures. My camera was out of commission for a few days, so these were taken via cellphone. And clearly it didn’t seem super important at the time to double check little details… like the focus.

You will need:

1) Bottles that seal
2) Vanilla beans
3) Vodka

Optional
4) Labels (this is completely optional)
5) funnel

Bottles

Because I am giving these as gift and want them to be pretty, I used boston round bottles and I’ve bought them on Amazon and also on Uline in the past. I have amazon prime, so it worked out well for me to get them off of there. Last year, I did 8 oz bottles, but this year I wanted to give out more gifts, so I decided to go with the more economical 4oz size. I found that the amber bottles are slightly cheaper than the clear bottles on amazon, and slightly more expensive than clear on uline. So, pick your poison. There is no wrong choice here.

Any bottle that seals will do the trick. I have used empty syrup bottles before and if you are making this just for home use, you can just go ahead an stick all the vanilla beans directly into your bottle of alcohol!

Next, I sanitize my bottles. Ok, so realistically, I’m not entirely sure how critical this step is to the process since your are filling the bottles with alchohol, but, I figure it’s definitely not a BAD thing to do.

This is super easy to do if you have a dishwasher. You simply run the bottles through on a steam rinse. You can also get the bottles wet, and zap them in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. I put my jars in a pot and cover them with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil for 15 minutes.

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Vanilla Beans:

While your bottles are sanitizing, you can start to get your vanilla beans ready.

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Again, I bought my vanilla beans on Amazon. And no, they aren’t paying for any advertising (I wish).

I am in no way an authority on this subject, but I used Madigascar Burbon Vanilla Beans after reading several reviews. You can also generally find vanilla beans at a local store, but I will warn you… they are pricey when you are buying just a few at a time. Your beans should absolutely be vacuumed sealed when they arrive. The best beans, are soft and pliable to the touch. You can either order them by the count number or by weight. Google tells me there are approximately 25 plus beans per 1/4 lb.

Take a sharp knife and score the vanilla bean. Once the Bottles are sanitized, remove from the water (be careful, they are very hot!) and add 1 vanilla bean per 2 ounces. I just fold it in half and push it in the bottle.

Alchohol:

You can use vodka, bourbon, brandy or rum to make vanilla. I prefer vodka because it doesn’t flavor the extract, but again… whatever floats your boat. It’s not entirely necessary, but I would advise using a funnel if you don’t want to spill some of the vodka (like I did).

The store clerk definitely did a bit of a double take at me when I unloaded my groceries and out came 6 liters of vodka. 🙂

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After that, just sit back and let time work its magic! Some tutorials advise you to shake the bottles once a week… I’m assuming to just encourage the process along a bit.

Also, bonus! You can refill these bottles up again with alcohol when they start to run low. I have found that my vanilla tastes best if you only refill it once.

If you want to you can print cool labels to put on the bottles and tie a little ribbon or maybe attach a little ornament?

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I had a couple beans left over so I decided to make Vanilla Sugar!

Vanilla Sugar 

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There are a couple methods to making vanilla sugar. Again, this is super simple and really rewarding for the cost/effort that goes into it.

You will need:

1) Sugar (you can use any type that you like, but I had the regular white sugar on hand, so that’s why I used)
2) Vanilla beans

You will need 1 bean per 2 cups of sugar.

There are a couple different ways to go about this. You can just stick a bean in sugar and let it gradually infuse. Or you can pulse the whole bean with sugar in a food processor. I like the middle road.

Again, taking a sharp knife score the bean. You can also work the knife in-between the bean and split it from tip to tip. You will now want to run your knife horizontally down the bean to take out all the delicious seeds. It will be a paste consistency.

I put the paste and the sugar in a bowl and mix it well with a whisk. You will see the gorgeous seeds dotting your sugar. put the sugar back into a sealable container with the bean skins that you just used.

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Give this at least a week to build up flavor and potency. It. Is. Delicious.

You can sprinkle it on fruit for a dessert, use it to bake with… add extra kick to that creme brûlée topping, or my favorite: just throw a teaspoon in with your morning coffee. Yum.

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