This is probably my chief kitchen pet peeve- artificial vanilla. WHY?! I know it’s cheap but is putting 1) chemicals and 2) nasty tasting baked goods in your mouth EVER a good idea? No. If it’s not delicious, don’t put it in your mouth. It’s a waste of time, money, and calories. If you can’t bring yourself to pay a bit more for good quality vanilla, this post is for you.
The pictures below are days 1, 7, 14 and 30
I’m about to tell you the secret to great, cheap, REAL vanilla, so get yourself a list and go pick these things up: 3 sealable tall glass bottles, preferably clear so you can tell when your vanilla is ready to use; a bottle of cheaper vodka. Make sure it’s between 70 and 90 proof. You can even get fancy and buy organic potato vodka like I managed to find on sale. Full price? You may as well just buy the good vanilla and skip the work, but honestly, this is more fun.
The beans you’ll want to find on Amazon (or just get THIS one, because it’s awesome and gives you a few different kinds of beans to try so you can smell the difference between a Madagascar, Tahitian, and Indonesian vanilla…it’s huge. You want Grade B beans. I know you’ll be tempted to get Grade A, but don’t. Those are for actually scraping out and cooking with. Grade B gives you better vanilla.
Plan on 1/4 lb of beans for every quart of extract, or 7 beans for every cup and a half of vodka.
Split the beans in half lengthwise to expose the inside, stuff into the jar and pour the vodka in until the beans are just covered.
Seal, label, and stick in a dark pantry. If you have extra beans left over, you can do an experiment like I did: I stuck them all (mixing flavors) in a bigger jar and filled it with vodka to see how the combination of flavors turns out in comparison.
Shake every day for at LEAST a month, probably more like 2 or 3 months until it’s nice and dark. Then, as you use, it, refill it with the extra vodka so the beans stay covered. How easy is that?! Never have to buy vanilla again.
Here’s the lowdown on bean flavor profiles:
Mexican vanilla beans– smoky, spicy tones
Indonesian bourbon vanilla beans– smoky, woody
Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans– sweet, creamy
Tahitian vanilla beans– what you think about when you think “vanilla”- very typical, not complex
Indian vanilla beans– dark, rum notes with a cherry undertone
Papua New Guinea– chocolatey, very mild