I know, I know, it's only September and I shouldn't be thinking about Christmas yet - but I am! I have been wanting to make homemade vanilla extract for months, and it's finally time to make some for myself and a few to give away as gifts. I bake a lot, and considering that everything from my homemade granola cereal to my oatmeal energy balls contains vanilla extract, I go through a bottle of the stuff every couple of weeks (I can't always find the larger bottles of pure extract at the stores I frequent, so I'm forced to buy those little chintzy ones for $3 a pop). That being said, making my own is quite a bit more cost effective, and I'm guessing it will be quite delish.
I purchased the three glass bottles pictured below (which stand approx. 8 inches tall) at a garage sale for $2 (old dressing bottles would work well if you're not a garage saler), in addition to 2 bottles of brandy for $22 plus tax. The two bottles of brandy made all three vanilla extracts, in addition to a quart-sized jar of Elderberry Elixir (recipe coming soon!). I bought the organic vanilla beans from Mountain Rose Herbs for $7.50 plus shipping, and received 12 beans in the package, so I have enough left over to make another jar of extract. After all was said and done, each jar of vanilla extract was still cheaper than a much smaller jar of the high-quality extract you can find in some stores - and the beans used were organic, to boot! This recipe is so easy (and the result so pretty, especially to foodies like me) that I hope you give it a try!
Homemade Vanilla Extract
9 to 12 whole vanilla beans
2 bottles of good brandy
3 or 4 decorative glass jars with corks or lids (sterilized)
Sterilize your jars and lids in boiling water for 7 minutes. Let dry. Place 3 to 4 vanilla beans in each jar and cover completely with brandy. Place the lid on tightly and let sit in a cool, dry cupboard for 8 weeks. Liquid will darken over time. Use as needed after 8 weeks.
*I've read that, once the 8 weeks are up and you are using your extract, you can leave the beans in the jars and top off with brandy as needed for quite a while to keep up your supply.*