Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Bean, Holiday gift
Homemade Vanilla Extract - One to two beans pre 4 oz. bottle.  This extract has been steeping for 1 week
Entering Costco last week, a glittering snowman surrounded by strings of blinking Christmas lights greeted my empty cart.  With our September San Diego temps and humidity boarding on my beloved tropic level, I have to admit that the snowman gave me no pleasure whatsoever, and even had me thinking of boycotting the looming holidays altogether.

Costco Snowman
With visions of shopping, wrapping, organizing and decorating filling my head, a shudder ran through my body, and I moved on to the safer grounds like the produce section - thankfully still bearing tree-ripened peaches and pallets of summer watermelons.  Avoiding the objectionable showman on my way out of the store, all holiday thoughts were pushed far from my mind.

Or were they...?  Reflecting on the amount of shopping I will need to do, I felt that little tightening in my stomach of, "What am I going to do?".  With so many little gifts needed throughout the season, I usually try to put together something homemade, something that I hope the teachers, neighbors, hostesses, etc will appreciate.  We've done tins of candy, nuts and/or cookies and breads.  Liv has given gifts of homemade jams and hot chocolate mixes, and we've made greeting cards and calendars from photos we've taken throughout the year.

But so far this year, I had nothing.  No ideas at all.  That's about the point that I reached into my pantry for vanilla extract for Liv and her brother's pancakes, only to find my bottle empty.  And there I had it, Homemade Vanilla Extract...


Homemade Vanilla Extract
4 oz. jars, 1-2 beans per jar, filled with Vodka
Internet searches turned up very similar "recipes", or procedures.  A bottle, a vanilla bean and some sort of alcohol.  However, that's where some of the variances came in.

How long should the vanilla bean steep in the alcohol to be proclaimed "done"?  With recommendations ranging from 3 weeks to a minimum of 6 months, I already feel behind the power curve.  And what sort of alcohol should we use?  While most versions used vodka, some used bourbon or even rum.

And where would I find bottles at a reasonable price that still remained attractive enough for gift giving?  And last but not least, with vanilla beans in the local markets costing upwards of $5 per bean, how could I do this project and still keep my costs in check?

For the moment, the recipe will remain a work in progress, the beans and bottles were both found online, though, and at reasonable prices.  A tip for Beanilla Trading Company had both bourbon and my precious Tahitian vanilla beans in the mail for about $18 per 25 beans.  Shipping was not outrageous, and it was fast.


Homemade Vanilla Extract
Vanilla Extract - 3 hours.
More internet researching brought me to Specialty Bottle dot com, where you can find all sorts of bottles, jars and containers (here's where I'll admit to having a bit of a bottle/jar obsession...).  Comparison shopping for similar bottles, I found the best price on that day to be for this company, and I'm loving the cute little 4 ounsers topped with corks for my extract.

The rest was easy... with a full bottle of vodka in the cabinet, vodka became my alcohol of choice, though we may give a try to bourbon with a few of the leftover beans.

Slicing each bean down the center, I opened the bean (but did not scrape the seeds), allowing the alcohol to flow over the seeds as it steeps.  Placing the whole bean (or two) into the bottle, we filled the bottles with vodka, and sealed.

Setting up the bean and vodka filled bottles for an impromptu photo shoot, I loved the look of the beans in the clear liquid, but after snapping a quick shot or two, carpool duties took over.  Returning my focus to the bottles several hours later, Liv and I commented how the liquid had already begun pulling the vanilla ever so slightly from the beans giving a soft, light amber glow to the bottles (see instagram shot above - find us at: kimlivlife).


Tahitian Vanilla Extract, holiday gifts
Tahitian Vanilla Extract - 1 week
Now, a week into our vanilla extract project, the liquid has taken on a lovely golden hue, and has a somewhat modest vanilla aroma.  With one week under our belt, I'm thinking that longer is better for the steeping process, but we will continue checking weekly to record the progress.

As such... if you are contemplating making vanilla extract for your 2012 holiday presents, I suggest getting going now, allowing a few months for optimum results.

So far I'm thrilled with the progress of our holiday experiment, and I'm eager to research sealing the bottles with wax and finishing with pretty ribbons or embellishments.  While I'm definitely not feeling "holidayish", visions of holiday gifts are beginning to fill my head.


Bourbon Vanilla Beans

18 comments:

  1. I found that it took waaaaaaaay longer than the experts claimed. But I like a really strong vanilla flavor! :) Have fun with your project!

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  2. I love love love this idea. I've been meaning to try it for ages too. Your pretty photos have totally inspired me to give a whirl. I want to try a rum version! Too bad we don't live close enough that we could trade and taste test!

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  3. What a fabulous idea...who wouldn't love to receive some homemade vanilla extract? That's a really great price for vanilla bean pods!

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  4. Oh my! I love this idea! I was wondering how many times you could refill the bottle with vodka to squeeze all the flavor from the bean. What would you do once the bottle is empty? Lovely pics, as always.

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  5. These make the best gifts! Especially for people who love baking! The bottles are so cute too.

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  6. Love this idea and your bottles are so pretty! So funny you mention the Costco Christmas decorations...I don't go to Costo too regularly, but I went last Friday to buy food for my daughter's b-day party on Saturday-like you, I was surprised to see all the Christmas decorations, especially with how hot it's been here lately. I did however buy myself a little early present-a quilted, fleece lined jacket that will be perfect for cold nights watching my kids ball games come this February :-)

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  7. I shuddered as well when I actually saw Xmas decorations go up in July at Hobby Lobby. Good grief. But I have been thinking about homemade gifts all year and have two bottles of vanilla that I think are ready this month. I actually need to go check on them.

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  8. I am soooo excited about this post!!! Holy cow, I really want to do this. What an amazing idea for friends and family and ME! haha Thank you thank you!

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  9. I love this! I have meant to make my own vanilla extract for so long, but never got around to it. I really need to! :D

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  10. I have made homemade vanilla extract several times. It's smells and taste so much better than store bought. Plus you control the ingredients, no added junk. Another great gift idea is Vanilla Sugar, slice a pod down the center, add it to 1or 2 cups of sugar in a jar. Shake it well, it will perfume the sugar. The longer it sits the more vanilla flavor it gets. You can see all the little seeds in your sugar. Use it for coffee, tea, hot cereal, etc.

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  11. I love the idea of the vanilla sugar!! I make it for myself for baking, but I think I might add that to the gift bag. I have some leftover beans, and that would be a perfect addition to a hostess gift!

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  12. I made this for my book club one year...and they were all shocked that it was so easy to do! You've reminded me to get another batch going :)

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  13. Oh man- Can I get on your Christmas list? :) Looks great! Wanting to try this for a bit. May give it a go after the holidays though. :)

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  14. Love, love, love, Kim! I'm so excited to receive the beans that I ordered from Amazon! The bottle website that you shared is awesome. They are fairly economical prices for glass bottles. Now, I've got to find cute labels to be able to write on and give that homemade look :-) Thanks for sharing your progress with us!

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  15. Thank you so much for this post. I am a pastry chef so my homemade Christmas gifts tend do be baked or used in baking. However this year my baby girl is due on Dec. 29 and the thought of baking or preparing things that pregnant sounds miserable so this is PERFECT!

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  16. I LOVE this idea - I bought a vanilla bean at Jimbo's in Encinitas and then didn't know what to do with it, ha ha! Now I know! I Love the presentation in these darling bottles too!

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  17. I want to do this, too! Then I'll get to brag about it and won't tell my friends how easy it was. ;-)

    I, too, have an obsession with jars and bottles...I spend so much money on apothecary jars each time that I walk into Michael's.

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  18. Great idea! I won't have time this year as I am going to be doing some traveling in October...so, I marked the calendar for next year! Thanks.

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