This is a post that has been in the works for literally months! I started making homemade vanilla in November, thinking I would use it as holiday gifts. Instead, I ended up using at our PDX Food Swap last weekend! It was quite the hot commodity. I will definitely be doing more batches for upcoming swaps.
I bet some of you are wondering about the cost – aren’t vanilla beans super expensive? Yes, if you go to the grocery store, they will be super expensive. I have two words for you instead: Homebrew. Shop.
This is one of the many, many reasons I love the Homebrew Exchange, which is just four blocks from my house. Not only do they have vanilla beans aplenty and at a much better price than the grocery stores, but it’s the same for tons of other spices and herbs! If it might go in a beer, you can find the spice you need at your local homebrew shop for a much better price. Think cinnamon sticks, chamomile flowers, star anise… Lots of the stuff that tends to be pretty pricey can be way less of a problematic cost if you know where to look.
And on that note, homebrew shops are also a great place to get bottles to put your vanilla in. For these, I used small champagne bottles and reusable plastic “corks.” They cost about $10 in total.
Here’s what you need:
750 ml bottle of vodka
12 vanilla beans
glass bottles for later (if you’re sharing, that is)
This could not get any more easy! Start by deciding what vessel you’re going to do your infusing in. You can either start in the small bottles, or just put the beans right into the vodka bottle and worry about divvying up later.
Next, use a sharp knife to slit your vanilla beans from top to bottom, leaving about 3/4 inch on either end so they stay in one piece. This will make your life easier if you want to also move the vanilla beans when you move the extract to smaller bottles. Place the cut beans into the vodka and recap.
Store the bottle in a cool place out of direct sunlight, shaking every few days, for eight weeks. The color change will start after just a few days! It’s really fun to watch. At that point, you can remove the vanilla if you want, or you can leave the beans in the bottles.