Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. As I've written before, every year we give a little Christmas Eve party and I give out some kind of homemade goodie at the end of the evening. This year I wanted to do the fun DIY thing of making your own vanilla extract. I go through so much vanilla extract and the good stuff is so expensive. I love the idea of making your own from good vanilla beans and then just adding vodka to it to keep it going - after all, that's all vanilla extract is, really - alcohol and vanilla beans. All you do is pour unflavored vodka into a glass jar, cut a couple of vanilla beans in half and then split them and stick them into the bottle. You need to let this steep for a couple of months until it is ready to use. I started all these bottles in October, to give out at Christmas. So everyone got a bottle of vanilla extract and a little bag of caramels topped with Sicilian Sea Salt, which I made.
I got some wonderful Bourbon vanilla beans from Beanilla. They were so exceptional - thick and very moist with wonderful aroma. You can buy a bunch in bulk and use some for vanilla extract and then keep the rest for regular baking in an airtight container in the pantry. We make homemade vanilla ice cream with real vanilla bean and it makes a big difference. I ordered the cute little 4 ounce Boston round bottles from Specialty Bottle Company. You can also get a variety of bottles from Beanilla.
If you would like to read the differences between the various kinds of vanilla beans, Garrett over at Vanilla Garlic has an informative post about that.
I ordered the fun little labels from My Own Labels, a great company where you can get custom labels for lots of things, including homemade food items, cds, bottles, etc.
Cut the vanilla beans in half and then cut them down the middle, to split them and open them up. The inside seeds of the vanilla bean is called the "caviar". Just place a couple of the cut beans right into the bottle.
Add unflavored vodka and seal the bottle and let it steep for 6 to 8 weeks, until it is ready to use. The extract will last practically forever. As you use it, just keep filling it up with a little more vodka. You will never run out of extract. Eventally it will help to add a couple of fresh vanilla beans to the bottle. Remove the cap every once in a while and inhale. It's wonderful.