Monday, 16 July 2012

Peachy Keen Vanilla Bean

I mentioned earlier in another post how easy it is to make your own vanilla essence (vanilla extract to my American peeps.) Vanilla is an essential part of baking but real vanilla essence can be pricy. Plus if the overblown price isn’t insulting enough it often comes in a teency-weency bottle to screw you twice. If you go for the cheaper kind it can have propylene glycol in it---also found in antifreeze. Um…no thanks.   Here is how you can solve all that. Make your own for cheap. The added bonus is that the same vanilla pods will keep releasing they vanilla-y goodness for a couple of years, just keep topping up with vodka.

First you need to get some vanilla beans. I hadn’t had to make a batch in several years as I had been reusing my vanilla beans, but they were getting a bit old so I went on a quest to find some beans at a decent price. I went to my local supermarket and found this ridiculous, overpriced over packaged monstrosity.

£2.50 for one bean shrink wrapped and packaged in a glass bottle with a plastic lid???? I was sure I could do better. Enter the internet. A quick search led me to a shop called Vanilla Mart who sold their products through Amazon. You could get 20 (count ‘em, 20) vanilla pods for £6.50 plus free shipping. I was sold.

The vanilla beans arrived and they were really good quality--all flexible and bendy not dry and brittle like old pods. Hooray! Now to make the good stuff.

1. You need some vodka. It doesn’t have to be the really good stuff either. I bought this Sainsbury brand triple distilled 35cl bottle for about a fiver.

2. Use a sharp knife to slit about 4-5 beans down the middle and then open them out gently to expose their vanilla seed paste.

 3. Stick the beans in to the vodka.

4. This is the hardest bit--Wait. This photo was taken 2 days later and you can see the vodka is already a  lovely amber hue.

The best thing to do is wait about 3-4 weeks for it to “mature” and then it is ready for use. I like to have two bottles.

Use Bottle A while Bottle B matures.

Finished Bottle A? Add vodka and store away to mature then crack open bottle B.

Finished Bottle B? Add vodka and store away to mature then crack open Bottle A.

You get the idea. These make great holiday gifts for someone who likes to cook.  

Coming soon: making vanilla sugar! Yum!

1 comment:

  1. Yep----I will definitely do this. And I'll share. I think it will make a good Christmas gifty, along with some home-dried rosemary sprigs from my big ole bush.