Better flavor for less than half the price?! I'M IN - LIKE I'M ALL IN!
Did you know that imitation vanilla flavoring could be made from pine tree bark? It's true. Now, I've used "real" vanilla for years, but was surprised a long while ago to read that what I thought was pure vanilla extract actually had corn syrup in it. So, I switched brands, and started buying it at Whole Foods just to be safe. Which also jacked the price. Like a lot. Like $13.99 for this bottle.
I knew I had to figure out a way to make my own. The process really isn't hard at all, but vanilla beans are ooooooh sooooo expensive! Even the regular, non-organic ones!
At least that's what I thought, until I read this secret on Food in Jars (are you ready for this - you may want to sit down):
You read that correctly. EBay has vanilla beans, even organic ones, for far cheaper than you can buy them at the store. I ordered @30 ORGANIC beans for $26. And that included shipping. So, when you factor in the half-gallon of Smirnoff Vodka (that brand is gluten free) at $18, I can have half a gallon of vanilla for the price of about 3 four-ounce bottles. Quite a difference, huh?!
So let's have some fun with extracts today...
I suggest getting the "party-size" bottle of vodka. Also, have some glass jars that you can seal. They just need to be airtight, so feel free to re-use spaghetti sauce and salsa jars. You can also use canning jars, and re-use their metal lids for this. Yes, you can re-use them for this - you are not trying to remelt the rubber and reseal them in a vacuum process. Really. And as much as lids and rings cost, you should re-use them whenever possible.
I used 12 vanilla beans that I split and scraped the seeds from into this bottle. It was partially full of vodka, and I just added enough vodka to bring the liquid up to the base of the red seal around the neck.
I put the bottle into my pantry, in a dark place, and gave the bottle a good shake every day for about a month. I used some yesterday, and I sure wish we had "smell-o-vision". This is so floral, it's almost like perfume. I have never had commercial vanilla smell so amazing!
The other two extracts I use the most are lemon and orange. That's how you change a simple yellow cake to a lemon or orange cake. You can also use Jell-o, but for our purposes today, you will use your new extract. These two extracts are also great added to frosting, and the orange can be a pretty nice addition to fudge or chocolate cookies.
So here's how you make your own citrus extract:
Try to get organic fruit if possible, and if not, wash your fruit with dish soap under hot water. You want fruits that have no blemishes. Start by peeling your citrus fruit. Use a vegie peeler, and cut ONLY THE COLORED PART OF THE PEEL! The white part underneath, the pith, is very bitter, and all the essential oils - where the flavor is - are in the colored part. Fill your jar roughly half way with peel. This jar, which is quart-sized, has the peels of 3 large lemons.
Here's the orange extract - it's in a re-used salsa jar.
You'll be left in the end with some "naked" fruit. If you're not going to use it immediately, put it in a zip-top bag in the fridge. Be sure to use it quickly because it will dry up FAST! Make some homemade lemon curd, or juice your oranges for breakfast.
Try making your own extracts, and enjoy!