"Whoa. That's A LOT of vanilla beans". Feeling my cheeks instantly warm, I replied "Yep... I sorta wiped you guys out". The dude at the grocery store may have thought I was a weirdo but I don't care. Know why? Cause now I have homemade frickin' vanilla extract! And it's shockingly easy to make. You need good quality vanilla beans, good quality vodka (you can use good quality tequila if you are gluten-free) and time. Literally that's it. And I cannot wait to gift these for Christmas!
I took advantage of the opportunity to create my own label. It didn't turn out exactly as I would've liked but it was fun and good graphic design practice. If you like the bottles I used, you can find them here. Also, if you're thinking "ya, this sounds like a great gift but it's too late to make it in time for Christmas". Don't worry, it's not! You can make the vanilla in the vessel you'd like to give it away in (beans and all inside) and just include a little note saying when it'll be ready! I like the idea of gifting it with a vanilla bean still inside so I stuffed one in each bottle after I packaged them.
If you're wondering where to buy 20 vanilla beans (I know it sounds like a lot), I was able to find mine in the bulk section of my local grocery store for about 70 cents a bean, but you can find some pretty food deals online, too. Amazon is always a good bet. And for the vodka, you don't need to buy something crazy expensive but try to steer clear of anything lower than about $15. Since you're only using two ingredients, you want to make sure both are really good.
Small Batch Vanilla Extract
makes about 40 oz of extract
20 vanilla beans
40 oz (1 liter bottle will do) good quality vodka
Split vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape out all the caviar and add it to a large mason jar along with the pods. Pour the vodka on top making sure the majority of the vanilla beans are submerged. Place the lid on tight and shake the jar up for a good minute. Let it hang out for at least 2 months but this stuff only gets better with time so the longer the better. Just be sure to give the jar a good shake once a week but other than that just let it do its thing. Then simply pour into your vessel of choice.
Cook's Note: You can make as much or as little extract as you like. All you have to remember is this ratio: 5 vanilla beans to 8 oz (1 cup) of vodka. This ensures a nice full-flavored extract.