If you ask me, vanilla gets a bad rap. A lot of people – especially those who don’t bake - perceive it as bland and boring. I don’t agree. High quality vanilla beans are delightfully fragrant and earthy, with either warm and spicy or subtle floral overtones, depending on their variety. Ditto for a good, pure vanilla extract. They make me swoon!
Those of us who bake regularly appreciate the virtues of vanilla extract or essence, as it is sometimes called. We use it with abandon in cakes, cookies, caramels, custards and ice creams. I, myself, have been known to even dab a drop or two behind each ear from time to time. But mostly, I try to reserve it for culinary purposes, lest I waste too much of that intoxicating – and pricey - amber ambrosia.
As with most things, you get what you pay for. Vanilla is no exception. A 4-ounce bottle of a top quality extract can run you about ten dollars or more. If you use as much of the stuff as I do, that really adds up! That’s one of the reasons I started making my own vanilla extract a few years ago. I can make a liter-sized jug for about thirty dollars, which rounds out to under four bucks for the same 4-ounces that I used to pay lots more for. And, homemade vanilla extract is so ridiculously easy to make. There is simply no way to mess it up!
All you need to get started is a bottle of booze and about a dozen vanilla beans. Yes, vanilla beans are expensive too. But, there are several online sources where you can buy them in bulk for a better deal. I’ve done the math, and it does work out to be cheaper. Plus, you can supplement your extract with leftover beans that you’ve already used for something else.
So, let’s make some vanilla extract! read more >>