When I was a kid, my parents had a bottle of perpetual vanilla extract. It's one of the easiest things ever to make. All you need is vanilla beans, alcohol and time to age. I loved the idea of starting my Christmas gifts early this year, so I bought the best beans I could find and a few kinds of alcohol and started aging in September.
great vanilla beans (I aimed for 2.25 beans per 4 oz.)
vodka (or rum), 80 proof or higher (Tito's Vodka was our favorite)
airtight container(s) for aging
Cut vanilla beans lengthwise, splitting them in half. Scrape out the caviar and place in an airtight container along with the vanilla pods. Pour alcohol over the beans. Seal up the container. Keep in a cupboard or dark area. Shake every day for two weeks and once a week for a few months after that. Strain and bottle up in cute bottles.That’s it!
Vanilla extract is supposed to eventually fully take on the flavor of the beans, so I knew good quality beans were my top priority. I ordered 1/2 lb. Grade A Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans and 1 lb. genuine Tahitian Vanilla Beans. I was so excited when they came in, because these beans were no joke: plump, oily, smelled amazing. Beanilla’s Tahitian vanilla beans are from Tahiti [most are a smaller variety from Papua new Guinea (PNG)]. I have never seen or tasted anything like them. The Tahitian vanilla beans were so large! Each bean had about 1 tablespoon of caviar in it. Huge difference from the shriveled ones you find in the spice aisle at the grocery store.
Since I was using good ingredients it all came out great, but any combination with Tito’s and/or Tahitian Vanilla were our favorites. There was a clear difference between the Tito's and the Smirnoff. The Tito's was smoother and seemed to infuse the vanilla faster. I would be interested in seeing if they taste the same after many more months of aging. The 10 Cane was delicious, but more like a vanilla infused rum than a vanilla extract. I think it just needs more time.
Trying nine combinations definitely made the bottling process a lot longer, but I am happy I tried all of them. If I did this again, I would only buy Tahitian vanilla and age it at least six months in a huge jar of Tito’s Vodka.
I bottled up the vanilla in some food-safe 4 oz. Boston Round Clear Glass Bottles. I was going to get fancy with it and use an assortment of vintage bottles, but I didn’t want any surprises (leakage, etc). I designed a label (referenced vintage apothecary packaging) and had them printed on kraft paper from Greener Printer.
note: The day after I affixed the labels, they started peeling up a little. I burnished them down. That seemed to fix the problem, but Christmas was fast approaching and I wanted to be sure they wouldn't come undone, so I added some Super Tape to the edges. I recommend building in some extra time to see if this happens to you.