A friend asked me how I make vanilla, so I thought I would share photos and instructions here. You probably all know how to do this already, but just in case someone would like to know how to make vanilla extract, here is my little tutorial. :)
Below you can see the jars I made last summer. We use quite a lot of vanilla, but these jars have lasted almost a year (by the time my present batch of vanilla is finished, these will have lasted a year)! There is still a bit left in one of the jars, as I added some extra vodka to try to stretch it out until I could get some new vanilla made.
First, you just need some empty jars (or any kind of glass container with a tight-fitting lid), vodka, and vanilla beans. I usually use 3-4 vanilla beans to 1 cup vodka.
We get our vanilla beans from here, and this large 1/2 lb. bag lasts a long time. You can make a lot of vanilla extract with this bag. (And it smells so wonderful!)
I use my kitchen scissors to cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, stopping about an inch from the end. You can also just use a sharp knife, but the scissors are easier, I think. You can also cut the beans smaller than this (in pieces), and that way they stay covered in the alcohol the entire time, which allows them to continue to steep.
The two halves of the bean will still be connected, like this:
Put the vanilla beans in a glass jar. Last time I used Mason jars, but this time I just used some recycled glass jars I have been saving (I can never bring myself to throw out glass jars!). I think I used 5 or 6 beans this time, as these jars hold about 2 cups of liquid.
Add the vodka to your jars. For some reason I was measuring it here, but all you really need to do is fill up the jar or bottle with vodka. This doesn't require extreme precision, and there's no need to measure (I think I was just testing to see how much the jars would hold. Also, children were talking to me and "helping" me, and sometimes I don't think very clearly while that is happening!). :)
Add the lid and shake the jar/bottle to mix everything up.
Store the jars tightly closed in a cool, dark place for 2 months or longer. Occasionally give them a good shake. I just keep mine on the pantry shelves and when I see them there, I sometimes pick them up and shake them.
Here they are after just a few days, already beginning to get dark and vanilla-y:
I noticed that these vanilla beans are a bit "tall" for these jars, so I plan to cut them in half so they will be completely covered in the vodka the entire time they are steeping. I recently heard someone say they had some vanilla beans get moldy because they weren't completely covered in alcohol. I've never had that happen to me, but I want to make sure they stay covered, just in case!
After the vanilla is ready to use, you can also transfer it to more decorative bottles, as I did in the photo below (from several years ago). When I made the vanilla below, I simply cut the vanilla beans smaller and made the vanilla right in the glass bottles with corks. These make very nice gifts.
There are so many glass bottles that lend themselves well to vanilla-making. A couple of years ago I used a cleaned out Swedish Bitters bottle that worked perfectly. It was a dark amber glass color and very tall, with a narrow mouth that was easy to pour from.
Vanilla extract will last for a very long time. You can also keep adding more vodka as it gets used up, which will stretch it even further. As the vodka gets lower in the jar, I just cut the beans so they remain covered in vodka.
I've been making all of our vanilla for about 3 years now, and it is one of the easiest and most pleasant tasks. I truly enjoy making it.
Linking to: The Homestead Barn Hop, Modest Mondays, The Better Mom, Mama Moments Mondays, Growing Home, Far Above Rubies, Raising Homemakers, Thankful Homemaker, Deep Roots at Home, and We Are That Family, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home