I recently had a go at making my own vanilla extract. I'm an immense fan of Nielsen-Massey but get through so much that at £5.51 a bottle it's getting a bit on the expensive side. So, I read the ingredients list and came up with my own alternative.
* Take some clear alcohol with a minimum 35% alcohol (I used a half bottle of vodka).
* Take out (& drink if you must) a few tablespoons of the vodka.
* I split 5 long premium Madagascan vanilla pods and added them to my bottle.
* I then topped the bottle up with some soft brown sugar, replaced the lid & shook vigorously for several minutes until some of the vanilla seeds had been dislodged from the pods.
* Place the bottle in a dark cupboard & shake well every week for about 6 weeks. You'll see the vodka change colour & darken as it becomes infused.
* The longer you leave it, the better it becomes. Remember to shake it regularly & keep it in a dark place.
You can add more sugar & vodka as you use it, alternatively when you get down to half a bottle, buy another & start again.
Now, Sainsbury's sell their own brand half bottle of vodka (350ml) for £5.80 (as at 15/05/2012). Nielsen-Massey is £5.51 for 118ml. I buy my vanilla pods from Vanilla Mart for £3.25 for 5 pods. I always have soft brown sugar in for making cakes, and a few tablespoons is merely pence.
Therefore for just over £10 you can make almost 3 times the quantity for only twice the price of the GOOD quality vanilla extract.
I've started my bottle of homemade vanilla extract and so far I'm really impressed with the fragrance it's giving off, both in the bottle and also in my baking.
Remember to buy really good quality rich dark Madagascan vanilla pods. Buying in quantity from a reputable place such as Vanilla Mart really does make sense. They don't sell the dry, often sad looking vanilla pods that you see in the supermarkets at extortionate prices for 2 pods. I buy mine in packs of 20 (normally packed as 4x5 pods as I make my own delicious vanilla sugar too.
If you do have a go at making your own on my recommendation, please come back & tell me, won't you?
Love & cake