For the last couple of years, I’ve been making my own vanilla extract. Someone gave me a gift of several vanilla beans, and when I found out how easy it was to do, I started doing it. But when I look at cost-and benefit, I don’t know that it saves me much, if anything. Maybe some chemicals.
In October or so, I buy a couple of new vanilla beans and put them in my colored-glass vanilla container and fill it with vodka. It’s important to do it in advance, because I bake a wide variety of holiday cookies, and I can’t take the chance that it won’t have time to get strong and flavorful before I start mixing up the magic. I shake the vanilla container now and again, so when I’m ready to start baking, it’s usually a golden-to-darkening brown.
This year, I pulled out the beans that had been in there longest. I left the beans that I added last year, in case they had anything left to contribute. I looked into whether there’s anything you can do with spent vanilla beans, partly because I hate to waste things if they can still be used, and partially to improve the economics of “doing it myself.” I’m drying them and then going to grind them to make vanilla sugar and vanilla salt.
I’ve heard of vanilla sugar, but vanilla salt took me a little by surprise. The article I found said it would be great for salted caramel (I make my own toffee with saltines and a layer of chocolate, and I can taste this sprinkled on it, when I think of that recipe), but also for things like roasted carrots. That makes total sense to me, so I’m going to give it a shot this year.
Next year, I might try to mix it up— I’ve seen that you can do an extract with cognac or bourbon. I might give either a shot, to give my vanilla more dimension and richness.
Do you make your own extract or do anything fun with vanilla? Tell me about it in the comments!