Make your own vanilla extract (v easy!)
I was having a chat with a friend this morning about salon hair shampoo & conditioner versus the stuff you can buy at the supermarket. We agreed that, although more expensive, salon hair products really do seem way better & make your hair feel a million dollars compared to the brands you can buy at the supermarket.
Well, vanilla extract is the same. A cheaper brand of extract that you buy at the supermarket isn't a scratch on a slightly more expensive brand & you really do taste a difference in your baking. Its the old saying, you get what you pay for. I have a favourite brand of vanilla extract which I buy online from the UK (its like hens teeth in Aussie & more expensive!), it's called Nelsen-Massey madagascar bourbon vanilla extract. I would swear by it. FYI for those readers who live in the UK, Sainsburys sell 118ml bottles for around £5.50. Lakeland also sell it for around the same price (Who else LOVES Lakeland?!...)
Since moving to Australia from the UK last year, I have been shocked at the price of things here compared to the UK. By things I mean groceries, clothes, electronics & don't even get me started on the cost of Ikea stuff here compared to the UK. Its really spurred me on to think about what I could make myself to save money (hence my decision to give handmade gifts for Christmas!).
I make loads of vanilla cupcakes & cookies so I go through a lot of vanilla extract. One day I decided to see if it was possible to make your own - & by crikey it is possible. All you need is a sealable bottle (or jar), around a cup of vodka & if you use vanilla pods like I do, you just need to throw in the scraped out pods once you use them.
I've had my vanilla extract brewing since April last year & each time I had a 'spent' vanilla pod, I just opened the bottle & put it in. Every now & then I would shake the bottle - but it just sat there & turned from clear to a deep brown/tea colour. It smells great & yesterday I used it for the first time in some vanilla cupcakes. The result? Just as good as the Nielsen-Massey!
I admit that vanilla pods can be very expensive & I must source some cheaper ones this year from the ones you get at Woolworths (grocery store ) which are daylight robbery. But if you are using them anyway in your baking, why not have some home made extract on the go & save the money you would also have spent buying extract as well.
So here's what to do - you'll feel very proud of yourself once you start using the extract because you made it yourself!
- Get yourself a little bottle with a bottle stopper attached, that holds at least 1 cup of liquid. Steralise the bottle in hot soapy water or put it in the dishwasher. Allow to dry.
- Pour in 1 cup of vodka & then add in at least 2-3 vanilla pods. If you want to start this off & you haven't used any vanilla pods for baking, you could use new vanilla pods, scrape out the seeds & throw those in as well as the actual pods themselves.
- Each time you use vanilla pods & are scraping out the seeds to put in your baking, just open the bottle & put the vanilla pods into your extract. I just kept doing this & ended up with around 8 vanilla pods.
- If you use loads of vanilla pods, then stick to 8 max in each batch of extract & you could have several batches on the go.
- Leave the extract for at least 6 months to infuse, giving it a good shake every now & then. Over time, the extract will turn dark brown in colour & will start to resemble a science experiment! Don't fear - this how it should look.
- I left my extract for 8 months & its turned out really well - it smells wonderful. When you are ready to use it (this will be an exciting moment), strain out the vanilla pods & general bits that are floating around, rinse out the bottle in some hot water & once the bottle is dry, pour your extract back in!
The only thing about making your own extract is that it does take quite a while to infuse - but as they say, good things take time & I think a good idea would be to always have some extract 'on the go' so you never run out!
I hope I have inspired you to try making some... :)