Make Your Own Vanilla - it's easier than you think | The Flamingo Chronicals: Make Your Own Vanilla - it's easier than you think

Make Your Own Vanilla - it's easier than you think

Home made vanilla
I get asked all the time about how to make your own vanilla. Y'all,, it is so much easier than you think. I mean that. ANYONE can make their own vanilla. It is so much better than the stuff you buy in the store. SO. Much. Better. Making your own vanilla is so simple. Seriously. If you can pour booze you can make vanilla. It really is that easy.

You don't need any fancy equipment or tools. You don't need any technical knowledge. It doesn't take a lot of time or work. You DO NOT need an expensive "vanilla kit" that they are selling online. Please don't buy one of those!

Vanilla making supplies
This is all you need to make your own home made vanilla.
  • Vanilla beans 
  • glass bottles 
  • Booze. The most common is Vodka, but I will talk about some other options below. 
  • Time

Vanilla beans

The two most popular vanilla beans are Tahitian beans or Bourbon (Madagascar) beans. The name denotes where they are grown. Tahitian vanilla beans are milder and more fruity flavored. Bourbon vanilla beans (also called Madagascar beans) are richer, with a more pronounced vanilla flavor. These are the beans I use for making vanilla.There is NO bourbon in Bourbon/Madagascar beans. The area where they are grown was formally known as the Bourbon islands.  Grade B beans are fine for making vanilla- you do not need the highest priced Grade A beans.

Vanilla liquor

The alcohol is the carrier for the extract. Basically you are flavoring alcohol with the vanilla beans. Vodka is the most often used. It gives a purer vanilla flavor than other liquors. Buy the cheap vodka. Seriously - get the stuff the college kids are buying.

Madagascar beans
To start, cut your beans lengthwise (but not all the way through). I use two beans per 8 fluid ounces of liquor. You can use more, but I have found that you really don't get any more flavor so why waste the beans. 

Glass bottles for vanilla

Put the beans in a glass bottle. It's OK if you have to fold the beans in half. Any glass bottle will work if it has a lid. I doesn't have to be a dark glass bottle. You are going to store it in a dark cabinet, so it will be protected from sunlight.  I tend to use recycled bottles. The dark bottles in this post are from a certain premixed cocktail that the hubs likes to drink. They are perfect for vanilla. You can even use a canning jar.

Labelling vanilla

Fill your bottle up with liquor, put the cap on, and wipe the outside of the bottle down. Give it a shake to help some of the caviar move out of the beans. Label the bottles with the date and be sure to note what liquor you used if it was not plain old vodka.

Vanilla varieties
I use a variety of liquors to make my vanilla. A small batch bourbon is my favorite; it gives a very rich, full bodied flavor to my vanilla. Bacardi Spiced Rum is great too. I have a selection on hand right now, because I am trying to use up some stuff in my liquor cabinet. The hubs thinks he is a drinker. He is not. So when he buys a bottle of liquor it just sits in the cabinet until I use it. For this reason I have made vanilla with scotch, Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey, Bacardi Oak Heart, and pretty much every brand of Jamaican Rum. They are all good. Honestly I have never had a bad batch of vanilla. Try out whatever you have!

Storing vanilla

Put the bottles in the back of a cabinet. Once a month or so, pull them out and give them a shake. After 3 months you will have vanilla.  Now, one question I get quite a bit is "how long is it good for?".  FOREVER. Until you use it up- that's how long it's good for.

Storing vanilla beans
I buy vanilla beans in quantity. Generally a pound of beans at a time. That's a LOT of beans y'all. Most people don't need that many. I would suggest that you start with 10 beans. Use some to make vanilla and store a few to use in whipping cream, custards, etc. Storing the vanilla beans is super easy. Put them in a Mason Jars with a lid. Put the beans in the jar and put them in the back of the pantry where it is dark. Once a month or so,  pull them out, open the jars, and let them sit on the counter with the lid off for a few hours. This makes the kitchen smell SO GOOD. After a few hours, put the lid back on and put them back in the pantry. They will last about two years like this. PLEASE don't ever buy vanilla beans in the grocery store. The last time I looked they cost $22 for two, shriveled, dried up beans. Just don't do it!

Ok, so you want to know if it's cheaper than buying vanilla in the store. I get it. Sixteen ounces of the McCormick Brand pure vanilla extract is $35 ($17.50 per cup). High end "gourmet" brands of pure vanilla extract run as much as $20 for a measly FOUR ounces!! (That's $40 per cup y'all!) By comparison you can make your own for  $7.12 per cup.  That is HALF the price of even the cheapest store bought vanilla. With no chemicals.
  • 10 beans for $23 = $4.60 for two beans
  • The Vodka I bought was $2.52 per cup
  • Total - $7.12 per cup!
Vanilla kit
One last note. Please DO NOT buy a "vanilla making kit". It is a waste of money.  This one includes "Exquisite 375 ml clear glass bottle imported from Italy, custom label, and instructions included". Y'all - no one cares where your bottle comes from. It's always going to be stored in a cabinet. Did you notice how big that imported bottle is? It's 375ml - that is 12.5 ounces. So that vanilla ends up costing $26.50 per cup. Ridiculous! 
OK- this was the longest post in history, thanks so much if you made it to the end! I hope you give this a try. Making your own vanilla is so easy - you will never go back to buying it, I promise!

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