Growing up I stood next to my Grandmother in the kitchen while she taught me the basics of baking. Butter, sugar, flour and vanilla. It was so mesmerizing what could be done with such simple ingredients.
Now years later, I still have those memories when I mix these ingredients. To remember her hands and the memories when that recipe comes out of the card box. But the one thing that has changed over the years is that the ingredients have become better. The butter is now unsalted, the flour has become unbleached, and the vanilla....oh the vanilla!!!!
To step away from the generic store version and move on to heaven...The best thing I have ever done with baking (after purchasing the Kitchen Aid) was making homemade vanilla from beans that were a gift. Those 7 Madagascar given to me from an individual who had no idea what gold she held in her hands.
A co-worker has visitors from that wonderful island visiting her home....who gave her the gift of vanilla beans they brought with them. She stumbled into the office telling me this story and wondering what in the world she would use them for. This was a very simple answer for me to give. The humor that ensued next of me rattling off every idea I had...was entertaining for those around. But this excitement allowed me the opportunity of being gifted some of those wonderful beans.
This experience created my now heavenly addiction to from-scratch vanilla. This is one thing I will keep on the list of the most important items in my pantry......(and it is a great holiday gift for others!)
How to make Homemade Vanilla Extract
You will only need three simple ingredients
Vanilla Beans (4-5 beans)
Vodka (1 Cup)
A glass jar with tight fitting lid
First, you will need to use a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, splitting them in half, leaving an inch at the end connected. Then put your cut vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid (as you can see above I prefer mason jars). Cover completely with the vodka. The next step is important - you will need to store in a cool dark place for two months or longer. The longer it sits the better it will become. (and, yes, patience is needed!) Every few weeks be sure to give the bottle a good shake to stir up the vanilla.
One the months have passed and you can see the wonderful dark color, it is time to enjoy and start baking! As you can see from the photo, I have a smaller mason jar I use on a regular basis (takes me a few months to get through it when full) and the larger jar is my reserve I keep refilling with beans and Vodka to store away (in a dark cabinet). And here is a secret....you can also use other alcohol you may have on hand (bourbon, brandy, or rum) if you prefer but I always seem to have vodka in the house....