Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Extract

One of my lifestyle goals is to create less waste.  I noticed recently that I'm running low on vanilla extract and thought this would be a good time to attempt making my own instead of buying small, expensive bottles.  As this was a spur of the moment decision I didn't research sources for vanilla beans and I just used the alcohol and glass bottle that I had on hand.  Normally, the frugal side of me wouldn't recommend using Grey Goose to make vodka. ;)

This is probably a good time to note that the wall in my kitchen doesn't always look like that...that is Unfinished Project #872 - "Replace Kitchen Backsplash".

Back to the topic at hand!  The recipes I've seen usually recommend using 3-5 vanilla beans for about a cup of alcohol (can be vodka, rum, bourbon).  The vanilla beans I bought were packaged 2 per tube (at $5 a tube...not cheap but then, neither is vanilla extract) so I cut the liquid by half instead of buying more beans.  To make, cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds inside.  Place both the seeds and the slit pods into a glass bottle containing the alcohol.  Shake it up and hide the bottle away to infuse. The vodka and vanilla need to infuse for at least 6 weeks (the longer the better).  I chopped my vanilla pods into shorter pieces so they'd fit in the bottle I had on hand but I'll likely try to find a nicer glass bottle while it infuses.  After 6 weeks, test the vanilla extract.  If you'd prefer a stronger flavour, continue to let it infuse.  Otherwise, you can strain the seeds and beans from the extract using cheesecloth or a coffee filter.  This extract will keep indefinitely.  The seeds and vanilla pods can be used more than one time although the amount of vanilla that can be extracted will obviously lessen.

Was this necessarily a huge reduction in waste??  Nope (I bake but not obsessively).  The little tube the beans were sold in is glass (which I considered a less harmful form of packaging when compared to plastic, even though both are recyclable), the alcohol was from my liquor cabinet and the bottle was from honey I purchased years ago.  Even if my waste reduction wasn't significant, I feel like it was a tiny step in the right direction and its letting me try out a technique that I can use to make other sorts of baking extracts so ultimately, I'd say it's a win.


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