Here I go with my first tutorial, and wouldn't you know it, it has nothing to do with quilting!
Did you know you can make your own vanilla extract? And it's not only less expensive than the extract you can buy in the store, but it's much tastier. And, best of all, it's super easy to do!
I've been making my own vanilla for about 30 years now! Back in the early 1980's my mother sent me a bottle with a vanilla bean inside it and the recipe to make my own vanilla on the label. It was so easy and so good, I've just kept on doing it. I've even made vanilla in fancy bottles and given it to friends and family for Christmas presents.
You will need:
* a vanilla bean, which is available in the spice section of your local grocery store, although I found it for less money at Amazon.com
* vodka. The vodka doesn't have to be expensive. Matter of fact, I've only ever used the cheap store brand. And none of those fancy flavors. You want plain vodka for this.
* A bottle to make the extract in. You could use the bottle that the vanilla bean comes in, or you could find a fancy bottle. It just needs to hold 5 or 6 ounces and have a tightly-closing lid or cork.
Take the bean out and break it in 3 places, then place it in the bottle you're using to make the extract. My bean is broken more than that because I've used it a number of times before. You can actually use it to make extract about 4 times before it's exhausted.
Then, you need to add 1/3 teaspoon of sugar.
Next, add 3 ounces of the vodka.
Put the lid on tightly and shake the bottle. That's all there is to it. Easy peasy! See all the little specks of vanilla floating in there? That's what makes it so yummy!
You'll need to shake the bottle at least once a day, and let the mixture steep for one month. As it steeps, it will darken in color until it looks just like the extract you've always bought at the store. I always mark on my calendar when the vanilla will be ready.
When your vanilla is ready, remove the bean from the extract, let it dry out for a day or two, then store it in an airtight bottle or ziplock baggie until it's time to make more vanilla. (Don't forget - next time you use the bean, you'll have to break it in 3 places again, until you eventually end up with just little sticks.)
Then, make yourself something really yummy with your new vanilla!
I did a little math, to see how inexpensive this can be:
I found 5 Madagascar vanilla beans for $5.96 on Amazon (much cheaper than the $16 for one bean at Safeway!). That works out to $1.20 for one bean. You can use each bean about 4 times, so that would be 30 cents for one bottle of extract. I found Seagrams Vodka at Safeway for $8.99 for a 750 ml bottle, costing 35 cents per ounce. There are about 8 bottles of extract per bottle of vodka, making it $1.05 for each. I'm not even going to try to estimate what 1/3 teaspoon of sugar would cost, because it is so negligible.
Whew! Are you still with me? OK, therefore, it would cost you $1.35 for a 3 ounce bottle of pure vanilla extract if you make it yourself. In comparison McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract is $4.99 for only one ounce at Safeway.
So you can see what a savings making your own pure vanilla extract can be. The added benefit is that your homemade extract is so much yummier than the store-bought version and you know exactly what is in it. And you can feel smug knowing that you're eating better and spending less money to do it, which is always a good thing. *grin*