Homemade Vanilla Extract

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I love to bake and have found vanilla extract to be one of the most useful and important ingredients to include in all my concoctions. Though you can never beat the taste of an actual vanilla bean, a good vanilla extract comes pretty close and will last you a long time. I’ve had my current bottle for close to 10 months, though it’s running out. Since I needed a new bottle I decided to make my own, mainly for fun. As most projects, it evolved to something more and I ultimately decided to make a few bottles as small Christmas gifts for family and friends. The process is quite simple, all you need is vanilla beans and vodka. I ordered Bourbon Vanilla Beans from Beanilla and used Grey Goose Vodka, though you can use any type of vodka you have at hand as long as it is 80 proof/40% alcohol. 

Using a sharp knife, slice your vanilla beans down the center lengthwise. Inside the beans you will notice the vanilla “caviar”. You can scrape some of  the caviar out of your beans and scoop it into the jar you’ll be using to store your extract.

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Next, cut your vanilla beans in half. This will allow you to fully submerge your beans in vodka. When your beans are cut, place them in the bottles you’ve decided to use, pour the vodka over and seal.

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If you’re using a clear glass jar, make sure to keep the vanilla in an area without much sun exposure. I used 4 ounce Boston Round glass bottles from Specialty Bottles and ordered customized labels from My Own Labels which fit perfectly.

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The traditional time-frame to leave your beans soaking is a minimum of 6 weeks before use, but as with wine the longer it ages, the better. While some people remove the beans after the a certain amount of time ( this can be determined by you) and strain the liquid to have smooth vanilla extract, I choose to leave my beans in because as you run out you can add more vodka and replenish your supply. In short, this small bottle of vanilla extract will last you a long time.

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Refreshing Peach Ice Cream

I received the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker as a gift last Christmas. Though I was insanely excited about it – in fact I think I teared when I opened the gift box – I didn’t use it until just a few weeks ago. I decided to make Peach Ice Cream since peaches are one of my favorite fruits. The original plan was to make Ginger Peach Ice cream sandwiches but this was all devoured before I ever got a chance to make the ginger cookies, so that project will have to wait. I used a modified version of this recipe and substituted Grand Marnier for Peach Brandy, mainly because I couldn’t find Peach brandy at the liquor store and also because I have a strangely large bottle of Grand Marnier at home from last year’s peach cobbler. If you have an ice cream maker at home, I’d definitely recommend giving this a try. The result is a very creamy texture with a fresh and flavorful taste.  It’s also really helpful to know exactly what went into your ice cream. You’re able to control the amount of sugar, fruit and type of milk/cream that you add and can choose to use organic produce if you prefer it. Overall you can customize this to your own taste and really create the best ice cream for yourself.

Peaches swimming in Grand Marnier and sugar.

Ice Cream in the making

Adding Fresh Peaches

Ready for the freezer

Final Product