Thursday, October 7, 2010

Here's an inexpensive gift idea: Homemade vanilla extract. Recipes abound upon the internet. I loosely based my recipe upon some that I'd come across.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
10 vanilla beans
3 cups vodka
1 quart canning jar

Cut vanilla beans in half, keeping out two. Cut the remaining two down the center vertically and scrape out bean seeds. Place all in quart jar, pour vodka over, seal and store in a cool dark place. Many recipes state to store for several weeks prior to use. (Mine will be stored for a couple of months as this will be jarred in decorative glass bottles and given as Christmas gifts. I'll let you know how strong it gets.) When ready to transfer to clean bottles for use, strain through cheese cloth or a coffee filter first. Though some people prefer to either not strain or to include a bean when bottling.

Also, I read that if you choose to keep a vanilla bean in the bottle, you can keep adding vodka as you use to replenish it almost indefinitely, or at least until the flavor is too weakened. Additionally, the used beans can be set out to dry and once dry they can be stored with granulated sugar to flavor it. Stored with some large crystal decorating sugar, this in combination with the extract, could make a cute little baker's basket for a gift.

As a little side note, I know vanilla beans are expensive, especially if you are buying them from your grocery store. Typically you get just a couple of beans in a glass vial for around $7 or so. I bought mine on ebay. I was able to get these ten beans used in this recipe, plus about 10 more beans that I haven't used yet, for $10 shipped. So check there for a great buy.

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