My mother-in-law made vanilla first because she stumbled across multiple recipes one day. In her kindness, she shared part of her first batch with each of her kids. Fortunately for me, I love baking and knew just what to do with it.
We quickly used our portion in pancakes, ice cream, lemon bars, whipped cream, and cakes. When it was gone, there was no way I could go back to my Kirkland brand vanilla (no matter how much money I saved getting it from Costco).
To make vanilla, I got vanilla beans from Penzeys. If you’ve never been there, it’s worth a trip. They sell the freshest spices at a great price!
I always get the 15 Madagascar beans for $37. I won’t use all of the beans for one batch of vanilla, but they store well and are great for making ice cream.
Once I have the beans, I get a liter of brandy, usually Christian Brothers Brandy VS. I have no idea anymore why I get that particular one, but it always turns out well. My mother-in-law told me that I could use almost any liquor, but that brandy works the best. I’ve never tried anything else though.
Before putting the beans in the brandy, I slice 6-8 of them lengthways and scrape out the gooey part. Once that’s done, it put it all in the brandy and give it a good shake.
If you follow this, you won’t have vanilla immediately, but keep it stored in a cool, dark place shaking it once a week for a month. I open it to smell it to know when it’s done. Once it smells more like vanilla and less like brandy, I start using it!
I hear that the vanilla will stay good for up to a year, but ours never lasts that long. Also, when about 3/4 of the original batch is used up, I add more brandy to it. Once I hit that year mark though, I start the process completely over again.
I do keep the old vanilla beans though, for any recipe that calls for a vanilla bean (usually just ice cream), and then I’ll put a fresh one in too.
I’ve heard you only need to use half of what a recipe calls for, but I never measure it anyway. I’ve never heard, “Um, this is too vanilla-y” either.
Be prepared if you have friends over who don’t know you make your own vanilla to be surprised if they find the bottle of brandy/vanilla. Kevin, a friend from college coined, “Wow, someone likes brandy!” when he was visiting this summer. 🙂
You need brandy and 6-8 vanilla beans (the more beans, the stronger the vanilla)
Slice the beans and scrape all of the gooey stuff into the brandy.
Add the beans.
Shake once a week for a month.
Voila! DIY vanilla