If you know anything about me, you know I am absolutely addicted to baking two things: breads and desserts. Now, in Sicily, the most typical type of vanilla found in flavoring desserts is basically vanilla flavored baking powder. I like to use liquid vanilla, and more than that, I like to use real vanilla. And so for the longest time I would just, well you know…..pack a few bottles in my suitcase….and bring them with me. I soon discovered that apart from the expense of $3.50 for a 2 ounce bottle, they were taking precious room in my bag….yeah I know what you are thinking, 2 ounces of precious room? Remember, when packing, every ounce counts! There are those things you can’t live without, those you think you can’t live without, those you really can live without, those your husband says you can live without, and those you can make yourself or find a substitution for. Vanilla fell in the last category. I know many people make home made vanilla, and so I decided the next time I go back home, I’m going to find out how it’s done. And so I did. Here are my happy results…..
Here’s how I do it:
– First, buy a good vanilla bean or beans. I use Madagascar beans. I actually checked out the reviews for Beanilla.com and was very happy with their beans once I received them. And if you don’t know much about the different types of beans, their site is great as they explain each type of bean and what flavor it produces. At the time, they had a promotion where you buy 25 beans and for $25 and get free shipping. I don’t know if they have those promotions often, however you can also check out their storefront on Amazon. I know it sounds pricey, but if you buy real vanilla, not imitation, it’s actually less expensive to do it yourself. So back to beans…..
-Next, split 8 beans (not less or it will have a very mild flavor) and place in a glass jar or long necked bottle. Pour over 1 1\2 cups of vodka, covering the beans. (You can add more or less according to how mild or strong you want the flavor….I find 1 1\2 cups of vodka produces just the right flavor). Now, the debate remains, “quality vodka or not”…..well, I just used a cheap brand (4,50 euros = $6.00) and was happy with the results.
-Place the jar in a cool, dry pantry closet and just wait….wait….and wait. After a few weeks, the vodka will turn into a nice dark caramel color and will taste vanilla-ey. No artificial colors, chemicals, etc….just your glass bottle, vodka, and pure vanilla beans! And boy, it goes a long way. If you use a tsp every time you bake, it will take a while to go through a cup and a half, not to mention the rest of the left over beans you may have!
You can see from the photo above that I used some! I’m thinking I could pour over some more vodka as I use it….but I don’t want to dilute the vanilla….so I think I’ll just wait a bit more, strain out the beans, and reuse the beans in a new batch of vodka.
Happy vanilla making!