Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe... and other vanilla treats! Super THRIFTY!

 A good friend gave me a wonderful gift a few years ago: a large bottle of homemade pure vanilla extract.  She also told me (a bit secretively) how easy and frugal it was to make.  For Christmas this year, I decided to try it myself to both give as gifts and to replenish my own supply.
Until now, I had always used pure vanilla extract sparingly because of how expensive bottles are in the store.  Even imitation vanilla is expensive (and I can only guess what chemicals are in it)!  In one short evening, I busied myself in the kitchen by making a dozen 8-ounce bottles of extract for about a third of the price of brand-name store-bought.  And it was fun!
You might want to make a larger batch of this to keep on hand; not only does the cost per bottle go down, but it must steep for a minimum of 5 months before using.   I've included recipes for both small and large batches. (For prices and where I purchased ingredients, see the end of this post.)

Recipe:  Homemade Vanilla Extract (makes one 8-ounce bottle)
- two vanilla beans
- 8 oz. vodka
- a tall 8 oz. bottle with cap, cork, or stopper (a reused, clean glass bottle or jar will work fine)
1. Using a sharp knife, split each bean in half lengthwise.  Do not remove the seeds.  Put beans into bottle.  (If beans are taller than the bottle, cut in half so they fit.)
2. Pour vodka over beans, leaving a little air space at the top of the bottle.  The tops of the beans should be submersed in vodka.
3. Store in a dry, dark place for at least 5 months to allow extract to steep.  Gently shake once in a while.  Extract will keep for a long time, even after opened.

Recipe:  Homemade Vanilla Extract (LARGE BATCH: makes up to fifteen 8-ounce bottles or a total of 60 ounces)
- 1/4 lb. vanilla beans
- two 1.75 liter bottles of vodka
- up to fifteen tall 8 oz. bottles with cap, cork, or stopper (reused, clean glass bottles or jars will work fine), or bottles totaling up to 60 oz.
Steps:  same as above

Don't throw away the beans from an empty bottle of extract!  Beans can actually be used twice.  Add used beans to a jar or plastic container with lid.  Cover beans with granulated white sugar.  The beans will infuse the sugar with a vanilla flavor, which can be used in tea, desserts, or my recipe for Instant Chai mix (below).

Katie's Clementine-Vanilla Bean Jam!

Recipe: Clementine-Vanilla Bean Jam
The day before Thanksgiving, I braved the grocery store crowds and found an awesome deal.  The store had over-ordered boxes of Clementine oranges and they were discounted to 99-cents per 5-pound box.  How could a thrifty girl pass that up?  Although my 5-year-old daughter loves "Clems", there were only so many she could eat.  I found this easy, great recipe to use up the rest.  This jam has a definite "dessert" taste, so it's best on toast, rolls, yogurt, or ice cream.
• one 5-lb. box of Clementine oranges (or regular oranges)
• 4 cups sugar
• 2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped out
• 1 packet powdered pectin
1. Peel and break apart oranges.  Remove any seeds.  Chop in a food processor, blender, or by hand until finely chopped, but do not liquefy.  (Don't worry about removing the white pith from the oranges, it's loaded with natural pectin and will help your jam set.)
2. Combine chopped orange pulp, sugar, and vanilla bean scrapings in a large pot, and boil over high heat. Using a candy thermometer, bring the temperature up to 220 degrees. Continue to cook for 30 minutes.
3. When the volume has reduced and the temperature is at 220 degrees, add the pectin. Stir constantly and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Pour jam into hot, sterilized jars. Wipe rims, apply lids, and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water canner for ten minutes.
5. Remove jars and place on a towel-lined countertop. Allow them to cool to room temperature. Check the seals, and store any unsealed jars in the fridge. Store the sealed jars in a cool, dry place.

Recipe:  Instant Vanilla Chai Tea Mix
I love Starbucks chai tea, but I don't love their prices quite as much!  This is a great, easy recipe for an instant chai mix which uses vanilla-infused sugar.  This recipe makes plenty of mix, so store the extra in a lidded jar.
2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
2 1/2 cups vanilla sugar (directions above)
1 3/4 cups instant unsweetened tea mix
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix until combined.
2.  Optional:  Add 2 cups at a time to a food processor or blender and process until a fine powder.  This will help it dissolve quicker.
Making a cup of chai:  Fill a mug 3/4 full with hot water (or hot milk for a creamier taste).  Stir in 1-2 heaping tablespoonfuls of mix.

Shopping Sources:
I admit I'm a big fan of Amazon.com and think the Prime membership is worth it to get the free 2-day shipping, plus lots of streaming movies and TV shows (we gave up cable TV long ago...). Amazon had the best prices I could find on these items.

1/4-lb. Madagascar Vanilla Beans, $18.95 (These were very nice: moist and fragrant!)  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000CR1ELU/ref=ox_ya_os_product

Clear Glass 8-ounce bottles with caps (package of 6 bottles), $8.58  (These are pretty enough for gifts and can be reused.)

vodka: any liquor store will have 1.75 L bottles; inexpensive brands like Dubra or Popov work fine and are about $10 each

homemade pure vanilla extract (not including bottles): $0.35 per ounce
McCormick pure vanilla extract: about $1.00 per ounce
King Arthur Flour pure vanilla extract: about $1.45 per ounce

Join the Link Party!  This post linked on... Craftberry Bush and TaterTots & Jello Link Party Palooza and Too Much Time on My Hands: Get Schooled Saturday and Mostly Homemade Mondays and Mandy's Recipe Box and DIY Home Sweet Home and One Project at a Time and Thrifty Things Friday and Frugal Friday and Sunday Social Blog Hop and Motivation Monday and Melt in Your Mouth Monday and Foodie Friday and Savings Challenge and Tuesday Talent Show and Totally Talented Tuesday and Silver Pennies Sundays

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