Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm plain vanilla.

One of my favorite things to make is vanilla. Yep, you heard that right. I make my own vanilla. And bottle it. And give it to friends and family. Do you want to know how? Well that's what I'm here to tell you today, my dear reader.

It all started waaaayyyyy back in July. Seriously. Don't think you're going to go whip up some vanilla today. It ain't gonna happen. But what you CAN do is mark your calendar now for some vanilla making fun in July. Or June. But don't wait til the end of July, you'll be behind the eight ball.

First, go to Sams and buy a gallon jar of pickles. THAT, you can do now. They cost around $5. Do you know why you want pickles to make vanilla? Because it's the cheapest gallon glass jar you will find anywhere. Look on amazon and you'll see they aren't $5. So, get the pickles, dump the contents (or eat them, whatever. But if you eat them all at once, prepare to blow up like a blowfish with all that salt.), and soak the empty jar in a bleach water solution. You may do this a couple of times before you lift it to your nose and no longer smell pickles. Frankly, the lid may be harder to remove the smell from than the glass. Beware. On second thought, you should get started now.

Next, order 1 1/2 pounds of vanilla beans. I get mine on amazon, but there are many merchants on the internet that can hook you up. I prefer Madagascar vanilla beans. You'll also need brown glass bottles, 8 oz. size. Again, the internet is your friend. Here's an option for you. This recipe will make you 13-14 bottles, so keep that in mind when ordering. And last, head to the liquor store. You'll need 2 liters of vodka. I've done this both ways, using the cheapest brand and then a pricier version. There was no difference at all. Seriously. So buy the cheap stuff.

When you get home with all your items in hand, grab a friend, because this is way more fun to do with a friend (isn't everything in life??). And sit down at the table. You'll need about 30 minutes to snip your beans. You're going to take a sharp pair of scissors and begin cutting the beans vertically from the bottom up. BUT, when you get about an inch from the top, stop cutting. You want them to look like a wishbone when you finish each bean, halved, but still connected. This allows the inside of the beans to saturate your alcohol. So drop them into the jar as you go.

When you're finished cutting, pop open those bottles of vodka and pour them in. Fill it all the way to the top. And then put the lid on, pat yourself on the back, and stick it in the back of your pantry. You're done!

Once a month, as you remember, go back to that bottle in the pantry. Pick her up, invert her a couple of times, and set her back in the corner again. You'll notice the first month the liquid is still pretty clear, but as the months pass, it will get darker and darker. Yippee! It's steeping! And since you have months to prepare, get on etsy and find some cute labels you can have printed to put on the front of your bottles once they are complete.

And then the day will come (in December, or 6 months after you began) when you will need to bottle those babies up and pass them out. Here's how that looked for me today.
I gathered my bottles and vanilla, along with my ribbons and labels and went to town.

I used a funnel to help me pour. It's kind of messy anyway.

Before putting on the lid, I stuck one bean inside each bottle and cut it down to size. Just for fun. And then it was time to add labels and ribbons, both of which are optional. But cute.

And now, having read this, you are an expert, too! Get out there and make this mama proud!

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