Given my love for baking, I go through a lot of vanilla extract. Though my go-to source for ginormous bottles of pure vanilla extract (for a great price) is typically Costco, I thought it was about time I made my own vanilla extract at home. Turns out, it's quite simple to do -- some vanilla beans and a bottle of liquor are all that is required. A quick Google search led to two main options for the alcohol -- vodka or bourbon. I thought I'd do a little experiment and try both ... I'll check back in two or three months from now and report on any taste differences. Yep -- you read that right -- it's going to take about three months until the vanilla extract is ready for primetime. So don't use this recipe if you need to use the extract immediately -- I think you'll want to buy the pre-made stuff instead. (And when buying vanilla extract at the store, I highly recommend getting the "real" stuff! Stay away from the "imitation" options.)
As to the quality of alcohol -- from what I've read, you don't want to go totally bottom shelf, nor do you need to use the high-end stuff. I ended up purchasing Kirkland American Vodka and Kirkland Bourbon (both Costco house brands), which were relatively inexpensive and yet had good taste reviews online. And, for the vanilla beans -- you can often find them in the spice section of grocery stores; I've also found them in World Market; for this project, I bought the beans online from Amazon.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
makes 2 cups
[Note: This recipe requires a three-month waiting period before using!]
2 cups vodka or bourbon
6 vanilla beans (rule of thumb is 3 vanilla beans per 8 ounces (1 cup) of alcohol)
1. Wash and dry a 2-cup capacity bottle with an airtight stopper/closure. Set aside.
2. Split each of the vanilla beans down the center.
3. Place the split beans into the bottle.
4. Add the alcohol to the bottle. The beans should be completely submerged in the liquid.
5. Seal the bottle closed. Give the bottle a little shake. Place the bottle in a cool, dry, dark place (such as in the back of a cabinet.)
6. Shake the contents of the bottle once a week.
7. After two to three months, the vanilla extract is ready to be used. As you measure the vanilla extract for a recipe, you can pour it through a strainer to remove the beans or any fibrous material, if desired.