Today I made homemade vanilla extract. I've had several online friends rave about homemade vanilla extract. They say it's cheaper, and that it tastes better. How can I loose on this?
I did some looking around the internet to find the right proportion of alcohol to vanilla.
Most places recommend using vodka, or an alcohol that is 80 proof (40% alcohol). I saw bean to cup of alcohol ratios ranging from 1 to 8 beans. I opted for something right in the middle - 3 beans per cup.
The vodka I selected is Vodka 360. Honestly, I just guessed about what to pick. I'm not a drinker of alcohol, so I had to rely on reading reviews and recommendations. I stumbled upon this brand in my local grocery store. I was attracted to the appearance of eco-friendliness, the fact that is it a relatively locally made product (Weston, MO), and I loved that the bottle came with a reusable stopper. The shelf price is $15.99 for 750 mL.
I purchased my organic vanilla beans through a wholesale coop. I got 29 beans (1/4 pound) for about $22.50.
I cut the beans lengthwise, leaving the top 1 inch connected together. I was a little surprised at how long the beans were - I just put my hand in there to give some reference. Although, hands come in a variety of different sizes too, so I'm not sure how helpful this really is.
I was also surprised at how small the vanilla seeds were. I guess I expected something like a green bean seed from a pod that size? Anyway, those little specks are all seeds.
I put 10 beans in the bottle (I needed to decant a little less than 1/4 cup of the alcohol to fit them in). I resealed and shook it up.
According to various internet instructions, the vanilla should be left to soak for at least 8 weeks, but the longer, the stronger it gets. The bottle should be shaken every few days, and left to do its work in a cool, dark place.
The beans can be reused for a long time - they say when the bottle is 3/4 full, to add more vodka, and it will keep replenishing the stock.
Now that I have my lovely beans soaking, I have to wait, wait, wait. I'll test it out in about 2 months, and see what my results are.
Note: after I started my vanilla extract, I did some further looking and came across Vanilla Review.
There's a recipe there that suggests I might want to add more beans to my bottle. The information on this site differs quite a bit from others floating around the internet.
Here's the financial breakdown for this experiment:
At my local Wal-Mart, I paid $2.33 for one ounce of Watkins Pure Vanilla extract. ($2.33/oz)
Through my local wholesale buying club, I paid $7.28 for 4 ounces of certified organic vanilla extract. ($1.82/oz)
Vodka - $15.99
Vanilla beans - .78 each, or $7.76 for 10
750 mL makes about 25 ounces of vanilla extract, so our price per ounce of homemade vanilla extract is $.95/oz.
The vodka actually had a mail in rebate for $10. Counting that, our price drops to about $.55 per ounce of homemade vanilla extract.
That's a huge savings! I'll go through more than four ounces of vanilla in a year. At that rate, this stash should last me at least 5 years. Don't be surprised if I start finding ways to use more vanilla extract, though!
I still have almost 20 beans left. Now I need to find some creative uses for those. Homemade vanilla ice cream, anyone?
Here's an Update on my vanilla extract, at about 2 months out.