It was CLEAR IMPOSTER VANILLA! Now, to be honest, I'm not so much of a snob that I won't use imitation vanilla. The problem was, the imposter vanilla wasn't even trying to be vanilla-like in any way! Clear wannabe vanilla... pfft!
I decided to take matters into my own hands and manufacture my very own REAL vanilla extract.
I purchased the "extract grade" (B grade) Bourbon vanilla beans from The Organic Vanilla Bean Company's eBay store. They ship worldwide and seemed to have the most reasonable prices (including their shipping prices) of any other bean sellers I could find. They ALSO were the only company that actually had the B grade beans in stock when I was looking for them.
Next, you're going to need to make a trip to the liquor store and pick up a bottle of cheap vodka (geez, I feel like such a lush saying that, and I don't even drink!). I went and pretended I knew what I was doing and just grabbed the first bottle that I saw with a sale tag. It was a very technical method *ahem*.
You'll also want to aquire some dark colored glass bottles to brew your vanilla in. I got ahold of some Grolsh beer bottles because they had the nifty swingtop cork thingies and were easy to open but sealed tight when they were closed.
Other than that, you'll need a sharp knife, a funnel, and a free couple of hours.
*** How to Make Vanilla Extract ***
Gather up your supplies. You'll need the following:
Vanilla Beans (8 beans per cup of vodka)
Dark colored bottle with a tight fitting cap
A sharp knife and cutting board
Step One: Cut your vanilla beans in half. Unless you have a heck of a lot of vodka and a really tall skinny bottle, they're not going to be entirely submurged if you don't! You'll cutthem in half again in step four, but it's easier to scrape out the bean guts on the slightly longer pieces.
Step Two: Cut the beans in half legnthwise. I find that if you start on the cut end that it's easier than trying to get the knife through the (sometimes) tougher end.
Step Three: Scoop out the beans innards. From what I understand, this step helps make a stronger vanilla. You can skip it, but your vanilla won't be as potent.
Step Four: Cut the beans in half once more. You can skip this step, but if the pieces are shorter, you can be sure that the entire thing is covered with the alcohol.
Step Five: Load up the bottle with your pieces of vanilla bean and the bean guts that you scooped out in step three.
Step Six: Add the vodka to the bottle. Make sure to use a funnel, trust me on this one! Cap the bottles.
Next, you need to shake them up. Dance around the house if you wish, I won't tell! Shake the vanilla everyday for the first week and then once or twice a week thereafter. You'll have a weak extract after about 6 weeks, but the longer you leave it to "brew" the better! The previous batch I made sat for about 6 months and it's really very good.
After your vanilla has been brewing for as long as you can stand to brew it (I recommend 6 months), you can strain it through a piece of fine cheesecloth and put it into smaller bottles. This is another step you can skip out on, but if you're giving it as a gift (which I think you SHOULD because it's awesome) then I recommend doing it.
Please please let me know if you have any questions! Sometimes when I'm writing instructions I read over it about seventy-thousand times and STILL miss when something comes across as a little bit unclear.
*****Since I've not had a lot of time at the computer, I'm reposting this as my "v" for Mrs Matlock's AlphabeThursday! It was originally posted on June 7, 2009.