Handcrafted Vanilla Extract
Next week is our anniversary, so my husband asked me what I wanted to do that day. Are you kidding me? The best day I could ever imagine would be a trip to an antique mall. So, we are going! And while I always keep my eye out for a buy to resell in my booth, I will also be looking for some attractive antique bottles to hold my handcrafted vanilla.
Making your own vanilla extract couldn't be more magical. I mean, you follow a few steps, wait 6 to 8 weeks or so, and voila! Plenty of vanilla to add that special flavor to all your baking and cooking for the whole year, flavored coffees, cakes, muffins, candies, and so much more. I usually make a pint to carry me over (but this year I had to make a second batch!). Can it save you money? Oh yes. I've seen 8 ounces at $28 dollars for the real stuff, and 4 ounces for $16! I get 16 ounces for under $20. Another plus is I like knowing just what is in my vanilla. You can do organic, and you get to pick the type of liquor.
I usually use vodka because it has a neutral flavor. But if you have another liquor on hand, like bourbon or rum go right ahead. Get your vanilla beans (2-4 pods) and take a knife point and open each bean. Don't cut all the way through, that way they are easy to remove and use in flavoring sugar or salt later. You just want to open the bean up so the yummy vanilla seeds are released. Drop them in a pint mason jar filled with your favorite alcohol. Let steep at least six weeks stored in a dark cupboard. Shake daily. The vodka will turn dark eventually and you'll know it is done when it is fragrant to your taste. You can either strain and take out the beans or leave them in steeping up to six months. When mine is strong enough, I decant into decorative jars and keep the old beans in, adding more and starting another batch. It is up to you.
This time though, I have decided to try something new. I had a bottle of flavored vodka gifted to me, a whipped cream flavor. Hmm, wouldn't that make a lovely vanilla? Currently it is steeping. And it smells heavenly right away so I'm expecting big things with this batch.
You aren't done with those beans you have strained out though. Lay them out to dry well. Then stick them into two cups of sugar or salt for about 14-18 days. After that time, you have wonderfully vanilla-infused sugar or salt. Use the sugar in place of regular sugar, especially nice in hot tea or coffee. The flavored salt can be used on roasted meats, in salads or to add a special note to rice dishes. Nice to package up for gifts too, with a colorful ribbon and tag detailing how it can be used.
As I head out in search of the perfect vintage jars, wish me luck.