A month or so back, while in McKinney, Texas, I purchased a bottle called Perpetual Vanilla. You add rum or vodka to the contents of the bottle (vanilla pods aka vanilla beans), let it sit for a month and then you have vanilla extract. What makes it perpetual is that after each use, you add more of the liquor.
On Sunday my vanilla was ready. It looks wonderful, but some cooks may not be happy with the vanilla seeds (little black specs that come from inside the vanilla pods) freely moving about the liquid, which will end up in your cake, cookies or other foods. One could strain these out, but that will undo the perpetual nature of the vanilla.
You may prefer to make your own vanilla extract without the kit. It is just as easy. It makes great gifts and has a long shelf-life.
You will need:
* A lidded or corked bottle or jar for steeping the extract. I like a pint size canning jar.
* Small bottles for filling with the strained vanilla, if desired.
* 3 to 4 vanilla pods aka vanilla beans (easily found on Amazon, but probably also available at your local store). There are several varieties from which to choose.
* Vodka or rum, about 3/4 to 1 cup.
Slice the vanilla pods lengthwise down the middle. Place them (and any seeds that escaped) in a glass jar that has a lid. If you are using a short jar or bottle, you may also cut the pods in half.
Fully cover the beans with about 3/4 to a cup of liquor. Let the concoction sit for at least four, but preferably eight, weeks. The liquid will darken over time.
You can strain this liquid into a pretty little corked glass bottle for gift-giving. Doing this, the vanilla is not renewable.
You may, however, choose to keep it for yourself. If so, you will want to leave the contents in the canning jar. Each time you use some vanilla extract, replace the liquid used with the liquor with which you previously made the extract. Just be sure the vanilla pods continue to be covered in the rum/vodka.
Bonus Information: The vanilla pod is a dried part of an orchid. Vanilla pods come from a variety of places including Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti. Beans (pods) from the different locations vary slightly in flavor. Let’s try them all to see if we have a favorite!