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ERIN SULLEY: Cut the cost with DIY vanilla extract

I’m about to say something that I know you can all relate too. The price of food is atrocious … full stop.

I was at the grocery store the other day and a lady next to me was weighing one tomato. “That can’t be.” she says. The next thing I hear from her – “three dollars, for one tomato?”

Mind you, I think it was a heirloom tomato, which are typically more expensive. but still.

It reminded me of a bulk store visit a few weeks back.

One of the ingredients on my shopping list was vanilla extract. I usually buy a bigger bottle as I go through a lot of it. However, when I picked up the bottle and looked at the price I had the exact reaction as the lady in the grocery store. Without even knowing it, I said out loud, “What in the world? This bottle of vanilla is almost $40? That can’t be real. This label must be wrong!”

Nope. It was right. Honest to goodness.

I fought with my inner self because I love vanilla but every fibre in my being said, “Lady, you are ridiculous if you pay that much.”

Grocery store lady, I hear you girl. I’m with you, and like her, I put it down. I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it at that price.

Pick your choice of vodka to use. This one has been lying around my house for a while — time to make use of it. — Erin Sulley photo
Pick your choice of vodka to use. This one has been lying around my house for a while — time to make use of it. — Erin Sulley photo

“The secret ingredient is always vanilla.” – Unknown

At home making recipes that I usually used with vanilla, I was kinda lost. I’d reach for the cupboard where the bottle normally sits. Nada. I know, this sounds ridiculous.

But, I put vanilla in everything. I use it in almost all of my baking recipes, pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs, over fruit, yogurt, coffee, whipped cream and more. Vanilla has an intense rich flavour and enhances all the flavours whether you use it for cooking or baking. I was like a lost puppy.

So what did I do next? I took to trusty ol’ Google. Google, I asked, find me a homemade recipe for vanilla — stat. The internet heaven opened up with a flurry of homemade recipes for vanilla extract. I was like a kid in the candy shop — homemade vanilla? You can make homemade vanilla? How am I just finding out about this now?

When I started reading about how to make it, I was blown away by how simple it is. Two ingredients … I mean come on. You know how much I love when recipes are simple and call for a few ingredients. This was like hitting the jackpot.

Try to zest as much of the peel as possible without getting the pith of the orange. It’s tricky depending on the thickness. — Erin Sulley photo
Try to zest as much of the peel as possible without getting the pith of the orange. It’s tricky depending on the thickness. — Erin Sulley photo

“Happiness is homemade.” – Unknown

How do you make it? Take a jar, put vanilla beans inside, add vodka, fill it to the top and seal tight. I know, you’re like, what’s next? There is a caveat. You can’t use it right away. All this recipe asks of you is for your patience. You have to let it sit for about five to six weeks.

That’s not the best of it. Not only can you make vanilla extract, you can make all sorts of flavours. Everything from mint extract, almond extract, orange extract and lemon extract. You essentially follow the same steps as the vanilla. The only difference with lemon and orange is that you zest stripes of the peel to put inside the jar. But avoid the bitter white pith on the peel.

I can’t wait to see the results of this in about five to six weeks. Foodie patience! – Erin Sulley photo
I can’t wait to see the results of this in about five to six weeks. Foodie patience! – Erin Sulley photo

“Stop. Collaborate and listen.” – Vanilla Ice

Homemade vanilla extract is definitely fir to eat! During my Google search on how to make vanilla extract, I came upon another wonderful recipe that calls for, wait for it – vanilla. Ice cream with vanilla drizzled on top. I can’t believe I haven’t done this before.

Mind blown! I just have to wait five to six weeks before I can try it. *sigh. I’ll have to take my own advance I offered earlier.

Patience, Erin. You just need patience.

Erin Sulley is a self-confessed foodie who lives in Mount Pearl. Email erinmsulley@gmail.comTwitter: @ErinSulley Instagram: @erinsulley

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