About fifteen years ago some friends gave us some homemade vanilla for Christmas.  It was some of the best stuff we had ever had!  Ever since then we have been making our own vanilla.  Making your own vanilla is easy, inexpensive and just makes sense if you love to bake.

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This is what we used to buy, a little 2 oz. bottle that cost way too much and did not last us very long.  I phoned into our local grocery today as I had NO idea what this size bottle was running lately.  The house brand of vanilla extract is currently $5.29 for a 2 oz. bottle!  It was all I could do not to burst out laughing.  I would not be able to bake like I do if we had to pay $5.29  for vanilla every two batches of chocolate chip cookies I made.

The vanilla extract you buy in the grocery store does have alcohol in it, alchohol free vanilla is very hard to come by.  Most imitation vanilla extracts also have alcohol in them, so don’t be put off by the following recipe for homemade vanilla.  Trust me, this stuff is tasty.

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First grab a bottle of vodka from your local store.  We usually pick up whatever is on sale

This bottle of UV probably cost us between $7.99 -8.99.  We usually don’t spend anymore than that per bottle when making vanilla, or lavendar spray.  For a 1.75 liter bottle I use 3-4 vanilla beans.  There are all sorts of vanilla beans out thereTahitianMadagascarMexican.  We’ve been using Tahitian beans for years with great results.  The above links will take you to Amazon where they have 12 bean packs for $14.95-17.95.  You can also buy larger or smaller quantities from their site.

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Take your vanilla beans and slice them down the middle.

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This smells so incredibly good, I can not even describe the sweet smell of vanilla that will fill your kitchen if you try this.

Take the vanilla beans and put them into your bottle of vodka, give it a shake to loosen the insides of the beans.  Label your bottle so you know when it will be ready to use.  I allow the beans to soak for at least three months.  The longer the better, but three months is good.  I store our bottles of vanilla in a cool dark place and give them another shake every once in awhile.

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You can see in this photo how dark the vodka gets after the beans have been sitting awhile.  I believe this bottle is four months old.  All of the little black flecks you see in the bottle are from the vanilla bean.  If you don’t care for these just run your vanilla through a fine sieve.  We always leave ours grains of vanilla in the bottle.

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Last Christmas I made a bottle of rum vanilla.

I prepared it the same way as with the vodka and have used some a couple of times in cookies and ice cream.  It has a much stronger flavor (as to be expected) and is a really tasty change in recipes where you would like a little more flavor.

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Here is the finished rum vanilla, super yummy!

So, lets do a final cost break down.

Bottle of vodka (approximately 25 oz.) -$8.99

Vanilla beans- package of 12 for $17.99 divided by three- $6

Total cost for a 25 oz. bottle of vanilla- $14.99 or  $1.20 for two ounces.

To store your leftover vanilla beans there are a couple of things you can do to keep them fresh.  One way is to vacuum seal them into bags or jars.  The other way is to put them into freezer bags, squeeze all of the air out of them and then stick them into the freezer until you need them.

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The price difference is incredible and you know what is going into your vanilla.   Three months is quite awhile to wait, so get busy, make your own vanilla.  I promise you’ll like it.   If you don’t you can just mail your bottle to me ;-)

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