Update: make your own vanilla extract
It’s been almost exactly ten months since I started my batch of homemade vanilla extract. I’ve been using it for several months now, and have to say it’s been a rousing success. The extract has a wonderful, rich flavor that’s accentuated by the bourbon, and it’s full of the lovely specks from the beans. I’ve gone through about 2 1/2 four or five ounce jars, and I gave one to my mother-in-law. She loves it!
For infusing the vanilla, I initially used half-pint canning jars like the one in the foreground here:
It’s just a super-short canning jar, and four of them stacked perfectly into my oatmeal container, where I kept them so they wouldn’t be exposed to light. But when it came time to use the vanilla, I didn’t like the two-part lid when I was trying to bake. I needed one hand for the jar, one hand for one part of the lid, another hand for the other part of the lid, and a hand for the measuring spoon. (I often don’t have the counter space to set down more than one thing at a time.)
So after a while, I went up to The Container Store and picked up a little Italian jar of about the same size, but that came with a one-piece lid. I really like this jar, and the size was just perfect to store in my spice cabinet and to reach in with a measuring spoon. (Since then, I’ve gotten more of these jars in larger sizes for keeping stock and iced coffee concentrate in the fridge.)
Then, a little while ago, I started reading/watching The Pioneer Woman, and I noticed her super awesome and kewl vanilla in a glass flask. You can buy what she uses here, and the company even offers a do-it-yourself kit (they supply three beans and the cool flask, and you add your own vodka). I decided that $16 was a little steep for three beans and a glass flask, so I decided to make-my-own do-it-yourself kit. (Is that a logical impossibility?) I had the beans, I had the booze, all I needed was the super awesome and kewl glass flask. And I found it! It’s not exactly like The Pioneer Woman’s, but for $4, it’s close enough. I think hers is round, but this one is truly shaped like a flask: thin and flat with an indent in one side. It actually makes it really easy to store in a crowded cabinet, and it hold about 1 1/2 of my little canning jars.
At this point, I didn’t actually make more vanilla; I just poured in my last Mason jar and about half of the little Italian jar. I have a funnel with a little strainer in it, so it was as easy as setting it up and pouring them in.
The strainer holes are a little on the big side, but that’s perfect for this, because I wanted the vanilla seeds to go through, just not the whole bean. If a bean had managed to get into that flask, it would have been a huge pain to get out.
I figure that these beans still have some flavor to them yet, so I don’t throw them away at this point. A lot of the seeds have come out, but the pods still have some flavor and are soaked in bourbon, so I decided to make vanilla sugar!
I’ve got another wide-mouthed glass jar, so I just put these beans into it, and poured over some sugar:
Next time, I’ll show you the final step in the beans’ life cycle!
P.S. After I wrote this post, I went to the Container Store and saw this load of awesomeness:
Any type of glass bottle you could ever want! They’ve got the one I have (at a MUCH better price than Crate & Barrel, I must say), as well as round ones like the Pioneer Woman has, and several more besides! They have colored ones, different shapes, different sizes, different designs on the glass… I wish I had more things that needed to be kept in bottles!