Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Homemade Vanilla

Nothing could be easier to make, and it will save you from additives that often include sugar!

Homemade Vanilla

1 fresh vanilla bean
1 cup of the best vodka brand you can afford
1 glass jar with a tight-fitting lid

Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise, carefully preserving the tiny seeds. It will smell heavenly. (You can also cut it in half horizontally if it doesn't fit into your jar.) Measure out the vodka and put them together in the jar. Close tightly and swirl gently. Set aside for 4 weeks in a coolish, darker spot (but NOT the refrigerator). We use an old ghee jar and mark the lid with the finish date. Peek at it occasionally and swish it a little. You can use it earlier than 4 weeks but the flavor won't have fully blossomed.

We decant ours into a prettier container, and if we're using a lot, start another batch. We've never had a batch go bad, but it does get darker over time because we leave the vanilla beans in. We did try a batch with cheap vodka once and you can really taste the difference. (A vodka-savvy friend tipped us off to the problem.) Different types of vanilla bean also affect taste. Experiment!

Where to find whole vanilla beans? Spice section of the supermarket, health food store, World Market, Whole Foods, Amazon. We've paid up to $9 for two, and more often a lot less. So shop around for the best price and freshest beans in your neighborhood.

Update: We've since switched to whole, crushed vanilla beans—no sugar AND no alcohol.

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