Monday, January 4, 2010

Never Buy Vanilla Extract Again!

The holidays have come and gone, and man was I busy!  I did a lot of cooking and baking around Christmastime, but haven't really done anything since.  I just haven't felt like it.  I've made some fancy dinners that I'll post on here probably tomorrow, or when I get some time (did I mention I've been really busy?). 

However, I did have time to make vanilla extract!  It's so easy, and really...everyone should do it.  If you're going to go through all the trouble and take all the time to impress someone with some delicious and beautiful baked goods...why not use good ingredients?  Besides, I always like knowing what's in my food...and how it was made.  I'm just nosey like that. 

Sure, vanilla beans are expensive.  BUT... you can sometimes find premium ones at good prices.  Besides, if you do a lot of baking, purchasing all that extract really adds up.  Especially if you buy the good stuff.  I know I've spent more than 50 dollars this past year on extract alone, probably more than 100.

Now it's a new year, so I've said enough!  I'm making my own!  I found a cool looking bottle from the thrift store, bought a few beans from the co-op, and a bottle of good vodka.  And that's it!  In about 6 months I should be set for quite a long time.

Start with a bottle, really any bottle will do.  You just want to make sure it has a good, airtight seal on it.  You could even use a mason jar if you wanted.

Get your beans.  These are Premium Bourbon-Madagascar beans.  I got them from my local co-op, but they are available online from many places.  Just google them. I paid 7 dollars for all three beans, which is an okay price, I guess.  Personally, I think it's a little high...but that's just me, and maybe you?  It's okay though.  It isn't the first time I spent too much money on something culinary related, and it won't be the last.

Next, split your bean.  Some people think you should chop off the ends of the bean too.  They also think you should scrape the bean.  You could. But you don't have to. Just split it, that's all you really need to do.

Toss the beans back in the bottle.  Some people also think you should chop the beans up in pieces.  You could. But you don't have to.  I mean, if you you small mason jars you probably should.  You do want the vodka to cover the entire bean, but if you use a nice big bottle or a roomy jar, you should be able to just toss 'em back in.

Grab your vodka.  Make sure its a vodka you'd like to drink.  Don't use something cheap or something you drank your freshman year of college---no Karkov here.  We're talking a nice smooth vodka. You don't want something that smells like finger nail polish remover. This is Grey Goose and it's perfect.  Sure, it's a little pricey...but hey! I can make myself some delicious martinis with the leftovers!

Pour the vodka in!  You might want to use a funnel, unless you are really good at not spilling.  Pour in enough so that your beans are covered.  For a pretty strong extract you'd use about 1 cup vodka to 3 vanilla beans.  I want mine to be a little more mild, so I used about 2 cup vodka to 3 beans. Use what you want really...that's what's so great when you make your own!  You can make it to your taste!

Put the lid on and make sure it's sealed well.  Shake, shake, shake!  You want to shake her up for about a minute.  You'll do this daily (if you remember) for the first week.  Then about once a week there after for the next few months.  This is just to help mix everything up.

You have to wait about 6 months before you can use the extract, so you'll want to get started right away!  I made mine December 31, so I have quite a while to wait.  I check on it daily though...and the alcohol has finally turned all brown.  I'm excited about this one!

On a side note.  I got a new camera for Christmas.  I'm not very good at using it yet...and our apartment has HORRIBLE lighting.  There isn't even a living room light, so we had to buy one of those crappy floor lamps, and that's all we have.  So, sometimes when you see photos and they have weird lighting, that's probably why. But, I wanted to show you a few photos that I took recently, they're not food related...but they're still fun!

This is our cat, Harry.  He is NOT happy.  He hurt his paw some how and won't let the wound heal, so he has to wear a cast.  Because he likes to chew off his cast, he has to wear a pink collar thing.  He hates us for it, and would probably curse me if he knew I was showing the world.

Our other cat, Penny didn't know what the heck was going on, and she coudln't stop staring.  She did this all night.  Harry just laid there like he was paralyzed.


Piyush LOVES to golf.  He's heartbroken he can't golf during the winter, so instead he spends his weekends wii-golfing.  He takes it very seriously too.  It's funny.

Look at his cast, I told you he tries to knaw it off.  We re-tape it though.  We're one step ahead.

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