I decided to start making my own vanilla after I had used up the last of my imitation vanilla. Mainly I did it for fun and to see how it would taste. I never bought the actual vanilla in stores because it's so expensive but I've had it in baked goods and I at least could tell a difference. I bought a 750ml bottle of vodka and 15 vanilla beans online for a little under $20. There are some differences in flavor for different beans. I got Madagascar beans because they are supposed to have more of a straight up vanilla flavor. You can also try different alcohols for different flavors. I stuck with vodka since it doesn't really add anything to the beans. Usually when I try something out I like to do the basic of all recipes to see if it's something I like to begin with.
Once I got the beans and the booze I set to work. I opened the bottle, popped in the beans and gave it a shake. It needs to be kept in a dark place so I put the bottle in a paper bag and placed it in the back of my pantry with my vinegar/lemon cleaner. A couple times a week I gave both of them a shake. It was pretty awesome watching the transition.
Recipes vary on how long it takes to make the vanilla but a few months is usually the consensus. Most people say they keep a few beans in the jar and just add fresh beans and alcohol to keep it topped off. It of course keeps pretty much indefinitely. As a bonus you can take your used beans, split them and add them to sugar to make vanilla sugar. I haven't tried this yet but I'll probably get around to it later this week. There are also a crazy amount of other ways to use these beans afterwards in recipes.
I tried out my vanilla in some baked goods and I have to say it was quite better than the imitation vanilla. My friend Erin decided to make her own vanilla a little before I did and we decided to trade. I forgot what type of beans she used but she used bourbon for the alcohol.
|Erin's bourbon vanilla|