I am prepping for Christmas today. I prefer to use homemade vanilla extract and vanilla infused sugar for all of my baked goodies and treats. These only take minutes to prepare but months to reach perfection! The first week of June is my personal deadline for prepping vanilla goodies for the Christmas season. Other cooks may say you need less time for extracts and infused sugars but six months suit my preferences.
My vanilla devotion may be on the extreme side…
One bottle of vodka at least 70 proof (or 35% alcohol) and five vanilla beans or so. I prefer to use 100 proof vodka. You can also use rum, bourbon, brandy or sherry. I plan to get a bottle of rum or bourbon ready soon for making Christmas candy.
Carefully split the vanilla bean (I use grade A Madagascar) down the middle. I try to only cut one side of the bean but nothing bad will happen if you cut all the way through. Then drop the bean into the bottle of alcohol. About five beans per bottle is plenty for a six month wait time. If you want the extract ready sooner then add more beans. Keep the bottle in
a cool dark spot and give it a shake once in a while. I consider the extract ready to use once it smells like warm wonderful vanilla instead of alcohol.
After six months the extract can be poured into another bottle or into several little bottles for easy Christmas gifts. I then pour another bottle of alcohol into the bottle with the beans because it is so much easier than fishing the beans out! Cut and add one more bean and store for another six months. I’ve only used the beans twice for making extract. Rebottle the new extract and shake the old beans out this time around.
Wrap the used beans in a paper towel and leave out on the counter to dry. Once they are dry I will store some of them in the refrigerator and use them to make chai. Another wonderful use for the used pods is in making vanilla infused sugar.
Vanilla Infused Sugar
Vanilla sugar is another easy trick that will make your homemade treats even tastier. If I have a used vanilla bean (or three) then I will simply bury it in about three cups of sugar in an airtight container. After about a month the sugar will have a nice hint of vanilla that is wonderful in teas and makes the best snickerdoodles.
If I am using a fresh vanilla bean then I carefully split the bean and scrape out the teeny tiny seeds. The seeds are mixed with the sugar in an airtight container. Then just bury the open bean pod in the sugar too. This sugar will be ready to use in a couple of weeks and will begin to turn a lovely shade of light brown.
Cute containers of vanilla sugar also make nice and easy Christmas gifts.