I have to confess, I haven't bought vanilla in a long time. I've been making mine from vanilla beans and vodka.
It was only a few years ago that I learned you can make your own vanilla extract at home. It's very easy as long as you're prepared to buy some vodka.
Since I am not a drinker, buying alcohol is a challenge, not to mention buying hard liquor. Most liquor stores look so dodgy. The first time I bought vodka, I decided to go into the liquor store associated with my regular grocery store chain. It seemed legitimate enough and easily accessible. Looking both ways, both entering and exiting the store, I asked sheepishly for the cheapest bottle of vodka they sold. I think it cost around $12. That was in May 2012.
The other ingredient is vanilla beans. You can buy them at most grocery stores, but they are quite expensive. You might pay between $1-3 per bean. Depending on the size of vodka bottle, you add several vanilla bean pods. You get a better flavor if you slice the bean lengthwise and expose all the little seeds.
The first time I made this, I was worried someone would see the vodka bottle in the house. So I decanted it into a random empty juice bottle. I put the vodka bottle in the bottom of my recycle bin and sighed a huge sigh of relief. It was my bad luck when I came home on recycling day to find a smashed vodka bottle right by my mailbox! Silly recycling men. They'd tossed all my recycling into the truck and the vodka bottle fell on the ground. No idea how many of my neighbors had seen it. So after that debacle, I decided it really didn't matter that much if someone saw my vodka bottle. Would someone really think I drink vodka?
So now I would suggest, simply pour out a little vodka and add the beans straight to the bottle. In my case, I poured the vodka into another bottle I had soaking. Then put your vodka bottle in a cupboard and forget about it. I do write the date somewhere on the bottle so I'll know how long it's been brewing. After about six months you'll have some splendid vanilla to use in all your recipes. Because of the alcohol content, it never needs refrigeration and will last indefinitely. And costs a fraction of the cost of vanilla extract.
|I find having a small bottle of vanilla is easier to use than a large bottle.|
|I used this brand of vanilla beans this time, bought online.|
|This is the brand I used last time, bought at a grocery store.|
|I didn't really count the beans, but it looks like I used 6-7 this time.|
|I was excited to find a Texas brand of vodka to use this time.|
|Here's my new batch of vanilla soaking.|
|Here is my batch that I started in July 2013.|
|Left to right: unopened bottle for next time, this batch, my last batch, and the empty bottle from my first batch.|
|I keep both bottles at the back of my cupboard behind the flour.|