My kitchen would be a sad place with out basic pantry items like vanilla extract and vanilla sugar. Vanilla extract was something I have always had in my mind to do because it’s used in almost every dessert we make. Some bulk Mexican vanilla beans (Mexican vanilla beans are the best), vodka, and a pretty bottle from the local kitchen store plus lots of patience was all it took to make this vanilla extract. What makes this so great is that it is so basic, and both the sugar and extract are items that you will use often. There really isn’t any reason you shouldn’t learn how to make your own vanilla extract (and vanilla sugar).
I love being inspired to try new things from the blogosphere, especially when it is something that you frequently use and gives you that satisfaction of having made it yourself. This particular adventure was inspired a few weeks ago by Zoe of Zoe Bakes, the co-author of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. She is an inspiration to me for many reasons. First, her story of how she used to come home and bake to relax from a long day at work. Her husband had seen the difference in her, and he encouraged and supported her desire to follow her passion. It is very close to my personal story, but with a slightly different ending. The real clincher for why I adore her, is she is also a local Minnesotan.
Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
There are a couple of things I want to address when making your own homemade vanilla extract. First is the easiest way to split a vanilla bean. The majority of people who use whole beans know that there is a wide side and narrow side. Most people will lay it flat with the wide side down against the board. Then they split it down the middle with the knife tip pointing at the board. This will leave you with two narrow pockets in the split pod. Then when you go to scrape the seeds out you end up with long threads of the pod pulp mixed in with the seeds, and this method can cause waste.
What you want to do is lay it flat to the board as seen below. Then fillet the bean so you end up with two wide sides with the most seeds exposed, rather then tucked away inside the pod. With a wider surface area open you can easily scrape out all the delicious seeds (with the back edge of the blade, not the sharp edge!) with no unwanted threads of pod!
You don’t have to use vodka when you make your own vanilla extract. You can also use rum or bourbon to make your own extract. Either will make a wonderful vanilla extract.