I have been making caramels like crazy here in preparation of heading out to the Farmer’s Market and once again I have run out of vanilla extract. The local market here sells little dinky bottles of vanilla extract for nearly 8 bucks and I’d have to drive an hour to Costco to get a decent price and by then I’ve wasted all those savings on gas.
What a conundrum for a cheapskate like me!
At the same time, I pulled out an oldish bag of vanilla beans and was heart broken to see they’d gone stale. I can’t cut those up for putting into caramel. They were hard as a rock.
Fortunately the light bulb turned on and I realized I could probably use these old vanilla beans for vanilla extract. A quick google search showed all you need is some type of alcohol and the beans and you’re good to go.
I had vodka on hand (I use it as an alcohol spray for soap making ok?!) so I chose to use that. Plus vodka is a very neutral alcohol and you therefore get a very pure vanilla flavor. You can also use bourbon and rum for interesting and delicious extra varieties.
For the beans, there’s all sorts of websites you can order them on. I used the Arizona Vanilla Company www.arizonavanilla.com and found some decent prices.
There are many different varieties of vanilla beans:
- Papua New Guinea Tahitian
- Grades A/B
I chose Madagascar originally because it was the cheapest at the time. Now I use Mexican because our Cajeta is a Mexican caramel. Mexican is more spicy while Madagascar is more subtle. I highly suggest trying all of them!
How to make the vanilla extract
Super easy. Take the vanilla beans and slit them open lengthwise with a knife. Watch those fingers! Then put them in the bottle of your choice. I just used an old wine bottle. I also had to crush my vanilla beans because they were hard as a rock. Strangely, the inside was still nice though.
Then all you do is pour the alcohol into it and cork up the bottle. Wait a month and you have home-made vanilla extract! So why are we purchasing this from the store? A half pound of vanilla beans cost me $50 and this wine bottle full of extract used 4 vanilla beans and is probably $50 worth of extract alone. Talk about a cost savings!
Do you have a vanilla extract recipe or tip?