I had purchased some vanilla beans from Amazon.com in preparation for making vanilla extract, but darned if I had \ever gotten around to actually making it. One issue was finding a suitable jar to steep the beans and alcohol, but recently a jar of peaches presented the perfect container. It is wide mouthed enough to allow easy access when I need to add new beans and alcohol in the future, but not so large that I would make so much that I would never use it all.
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Since this jar is clear, I will keep it in a cool dark location so that sunlight doesn’t spoil the mix, but once I start drawing on this batch, I will move it to smaller, dark plastic or glass containers to keep in the kitchen.
So, how do you make vanilla extract? It couldn’t be simpler!
Take vanilla beans and steep them in vodka or other neutral grain spirits like Everclear. For this batch, I picked up a 1/2 gallon of inexpensive vodka I found on sale over the holidays. The alcohol will pull out all the vanilla goodness and turn a dark brown. The process takes a few months to work, but you will be rewarded with pure vanilla extract whenever you want to use it for your baked goods. This batch will come in handy for my next batch of cookie baking, for sure.
As you use the vanilla extract, you can top up the jar with more alcohol and let it steep some more. You will eventually will way to replace the beans as well, but you will be surprised how much flavor they contain.