The vanilla extract experiment, part two

A week ago Monday I reported that I wanted to make my own vanilla extract. Fellow bakers, I have done it!

I got a lot of positive feedback on this project. Several of you commented on my blog or on my Twitter feed that you’ve been doing this for years and won’t go back to buying it in the store again.

I ended up choosing bourbon to make mine. There were exactly three cups of bourbon in the bottle, so I put nine vanilla beans in quart mason jar for my extract. It takes at least two  months to do its thing before I can use it, so I’ll have it in time for holiday baking. Many of you told me it’s best after six months or longer.

This was easy to make and was completed in less than five minutes. I used a new one piece canning lid to seal my jar.

Now that I’ve made my vanilla, my next project is homemade dishwasher soap. That should be happening this week. I’ll be sure to report back to you on whether it works or not!

The vanilla extract experiment

Here’s my new Susie Homemaker project – homemade vanilla extract.

What?! You can make that!? Yes folks, you can. All you need is time, vanilla beans and booze. You know, kitchen staples.

I had every intention making this on Saturday to report to you today, but my local bulk foods store was sold out of the beans and I refused to pay $18 at the grocery store for two beans. Thanks to the wonders of Amazon.com, I bought 16 Madagascar vanilla beans for just a little under $12. Cooking win!

I’m following the directions at Joy the Baker’s blog. The ratio is one cup of booze per three vanilla beans. She recommends using vodka, bourbon or rum for the extract, and just for kicks, I’m using bourbon. I think a bourbon-based vanilla would rock in cookies or in oatmeal. Oh – and pancakes. Mmm….pancakes. Leave the booze and beans sit for two months and poof! Vanilla extract.

Now, here is my reasoning for making this. One, I can make two CUPS of vanilla extract for essentially what I pay for two or three itty bitty two-ounce bottles of Watkins real vanilla extract at the store. I spent $7 on the bottle of bourbon (it’s probably not the classiest of bourbons), and technically $5 and change on the vanilla beans because I’m going halfsies with my sister on them. Typically I would buy the imitation vanilla because of the cost factor, but have you read the ingredients on imitation vanilla lately? It contains propylene glycol, and I’m not too keen on purchasing items containing that compound if I can avoid it. Propylene glycol is used in both food, paint and in fog machines for fake fog (see previous link for reference). I just don’t want to eat something that’s also used in paint. Just seems weird to me, but maybe that’s just me.

As soon as I get the beans in the mail, I’ll be making this. Has anyone else tried it? How were your results?

Recipe link: Spiced peach butter

So here’s something that I’d never though I’d ever say – I love to can. I love it so much that I’m spending Labor Day canning possibly my most favorite thing – spiced peach butter.


What’s that, you say? “Spiced peach butter? What is that nonsense?” Think apple butter, but only made with peaches. It’s divine. It’s so good my parents brought me peaches yesterday from my favorite farm market near their house to con me into making more. I pay them for the peaches with a jar of spiced peach butter. Works for me!

The ingredients are simple: peach puree, sugar, and a combo of all or a few of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. I just use cinnamon and a dash of clove ’cause I’m a rebel like that. If you have the 100th Anniversary Edition of the Ball Blue Book (don’t mistakenly call it the Blue Ball Book or your husband will give you alarming looks – not that I have done this or anything), the recipe is on page 30. Or, if you don’t have it, you can find a similar recipe at PickYourOwn.org, which is a fantastic canning website.

Which I love about the peach butter is that it’s not sickening, put-you-in-a-diabetic-coma sweet. When I make jam, I used the recipes in the Sure-Jell low or no sugar packet to cut down the amount of sugar. I like a little sugar with my fruit, thank you. And peach butter just looks so pretty in a shiny glass jar!

I’m going to be a Susie Homemaker this year and put my peach butter in our county fair in October. I’ve never done this before in my life, and this is only my second year canning, but I’m going to try it. I’m also entering my blackberry jam and ketchup. Since I got a Presto 16-quart pressure canner this year, I’ve felt like a canning goddess and feel fearless. Here’s a shot of the fruits of my labors so far, minus a few jars that I’ve given to family members in exchange for things:

What are you canning this year?