|Two ingredients, plus time, in a bottle = lovely, aromatic, everlasting vanilla|
Whole vanilla beans are something I've really never used on their own, but I LOVE vanilla extract for all kinds of recipes, and love being able to make my own extract so easily. Plus, this is one less reason to ever go to the store. OK, besides the liqueur store...
All you need is some hard alcohol (I use 80 proof brandy, rum, or vodka), a vanilla bean, and a clean bottle. To be fair, you also need patience. This is no instant gratification recipe. While you can use the vanilla extract after as little as six weeks, at that point it will smell more like alcohol than vanilla. Give it a full three months for the best flavor. If you want to speed up the time it takes before you can use your vanilla extract, try using a greater proportion of vanilla beans in the bottle. This will have it tasting of vanilla sooner, though it will cost more.
|Really, anything works as long as it's hard|
What makes it everlasting? When the bottle runs low, you just top the vanilla off with more alcohol and let it set for a couple months again. You can do this many times before the vanilla bean loses it's magic. While vanilla beans aren't cheap, one bean makes a lot of extract when used like this. I buy 1 oz of organic vanilla beans (about 9 beans) for $6 from Azure Standard, but you can also find them at health food stores in bulk.
|This is the first bottle I made, which is a bit too small for how often I use vanilla. To keep me in vanilla extract, I have two 8 ounce bottles going in rotation.|
Cut the vanilla bean into short pieces so it fits into the bottom of the bottle. If you leave the pieces long, you will have to refill it too often to be very useful (it's best if the alcohol always covers the vanilla bean).
Place one cut bean in each 4 to 8 oz bottle (you can use 1/2 bean if using very small bottles).
Fill the bottle with hard alcohol of your choice. I've used vodka, brandy, and both dark and light rums. To me, it really doesn't make a difference which type of alcohol I use; use whatever you have! Not tequila though because that would be disgusting.
Keep at room temperature, wait 3 months, then use as you would any store-bought vanilla extract. For best results, give the bottle a gentle shake every week or so, to fully distribute the vanilla flavor into the alcohol.
Refill when alcohol gets lower than the top of the vanilla bean (the alcohol preserves the bean, so it should always be submerged).
Because of the wait time after refilling the bottle, I keep two 8 oz bottles in rotation these days, so I never run out, or have to use vanilla that tastes like brandy. Every time I use some vanilla, I gently shake both bottles.
How long will it keep? Alcohol will preserve the vanilla indefinitely, as long as the beans are fully submerged and it's stored in a dark cabinet or in a dark glass bottle. When it gets low on flavor, cut up a new bean and toss it in.
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