Sunday, April 21, 2013

Simple, pure, homemade: Vanilla

When baking, I always strive to use the best ingredients possible, so after reading an article about Madagascar vanilla, I was ready to trade in my old Schilling vanilla for something more rich, and flavorful. But when doing a Google search for Madagascar vanilla, the price gave me pause. I learned that pure vanilla extract is the second most expensive spice in the world, with saffron in the number one spot. Pricing really good stuff, (around $20 for a 8oz bottle), pointed to one solution... its time to try my hand at making my own.

If you have a local spice store near you, I found it to be the best place to start. I stopped in at the Savory Spice Shop in Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood where I found a variety of beans at much lower prices than grocery stores or online. I decided on three different beans, all which, according to the authorities at Savory Spice, will create different flavored vanillas: Madagascar; Mexican; and Madagascar Organic. They were priced at $5-6.75 for a package of three. Add to that the price of a bottle of vodka, around $14, and hinged 8oz bottles (found at Storables), and you’re paying a little more than half price.

This turned out to be super easy. It only requires two ingredients, beans and vodka. The most difficult part? Patience. It takes about 3-4 months to brew.

Step One. Gather supplies. Vanilla beans (three beans for each 8oz bottle you’re planning to make). Premium vodka (or a flavorless vodka works too) 1/5 will make 3-8oz bottles of vanilla. Bottles. I found 8oz hinged stopper bottles at Storables for $2.95 each. (I really like these hinged bottles, but feel free to use any bottles in various sizes that seal tightly you like.) A funnel, or you can also just pour the vodka into a pitcher with a spout to make pouring into the bottles easier.

Step Two. Wash the bottles you plan to use, and let them dry.

Step Three. Slice three of your vanilla beans in half lengthwise, and add them to a clean dry bottle. Continue until you’ve filled all your bottles with split vanilla beans.

Step Four. Carefully pour vodka into each bottle. Seal the bottles. Label them so you remember which bottle holds which flavor of bean. Store the filled bottles in a cool, dry, dark place, giving them a gentle shake every once in a while.

Step Five. I attached these labels to keep track of the specific beans I used. Later I’ll design some permanent labels for them.

That’s it! So easy!
Just leave the beans inside, and as you use the vanilla, add vodka to keep the bottle filled. You can also add a couple fresh beans to the mix and remove a couple every once in a while to keep your vanilla fresh.


OregonWild said...

Super cool Idea. Fantastic photos. Better get started on the xmass gifts now!

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