Homemade Vanilla Extract, E.A.T. #21 and The Need to Make Stuff


Pure Vanilla Extract is one of the simplest & most appreciated gifts to give cooks. Bulk vanilla beans can be purchased online easily these days and combined with a good bottle or two of vodka or bourbon you have everything you need to make multiple bottles of richly flavorful Vanilla Extract is just a few weeks.


I have been thinking about why I like to make things a lot lately. As a child I made things with my hands all the time…little pieces of art or make-believe foods from mud, grass and sicks…pot holders and paint-by-numbers..my hands always busy and engaged.

I am like that to this day. I am pretty sure it is because the act of making  stuff is something I can control in a world where so much is absolutely, insanely out-ot-control.  When my hands and mind are engaged in a project I am more at peace and able to sort through my thoughts in a more calm manner. At the end of the process I have something to show for this time spent. An art piece, a cake or loaf of bread, a bottle of pure vanilla extract. Making stuff to share. We all have to find our way do we not? What is your method?


I split the beans…about 25 or so and add them to 6 cups vodka or bourbon. Add a tight-fitting lid and wait…..a small lesson in patience…..


….in  a few weeks (2 to 4) you’ll have lots of pure vanilla extract. I keep my jar in a closet and shake it every few days to help release the vanilla bean seeds….week by week the color darkens to a deep amber.


I add a few of the vanilla beans to each bottle after I decant the extract. The vanilla flavor will just keep getting better.


Make stuff, share stuff….it’s as easy-as-this.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 6 cups good Vodka or Bourbon
  • 25 vanilla beans, split
  • 1 large glass jar with tight-fitting lid
  • various decorative bottles with tight-fitting lids for decanting extract


  1. Pour 6 cups vodka/Bourbon into a large glass jar.
  2. Add split vanilla beans. Top with lid and shake.
  3. Keep in a dark closet or cabinet for 2 to 4 weeks, shaking jar every few days.
  4. Decant into decorative bottles. Add a few of the split beans to each bottle. Add tops and your ready to give away as gifts to your friends who love to bake. Bon Apetit!

Teresa Blackburn          www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com      www.foodonfifth.com

“My G7 Chocolate-Black Peppercorn-Orange Madeleine”


In my little kitchen here on 5th Avenue I do not have “Night Watch” as a background, nor do I look out over a restful, flowing canal. I am not meeting with heads of state, but I did to manage to have my very own culinary “G7” meeting this week.

 A French Madeleine tin, Chocolate from Ghana given to me as a gift from dear friends (see photo below) of Wouter’s who live in Amsterdam, marketed as “Tony’s Chocolonely”…..

Case & Annemieke
Kees & Annemieke…good friends…good company…good people. Annemieke is a fantastic illustrator…take a look.

….Kerrygold Butter from Ireland, Madagascar Vanilla Extract,  Black Peppercorns from India and eggs hatched right here in Tennessee..a Food on Fifth G7!

Since finding a Madeleine Tin (made in France stamped underneath) at a Thrift store last year I have intended to try it out. I adore Madeleines…whenever I go to a bakery that sells them I will choose these little seashell shaped tea cakes every time. The crispy edges…the slight aroma of vanilla…not overly sweet…delicate in all ways is the Madeleine. They always remind me of the teacakes my Mother would make for us as children in West Tennessee, but way better…and French.  Why not add some really good chocolate? No?….oui!

Ingredients for “G7 Madeleines”

1/2 cup melted butter, 2/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 4 ounces good quality 70% pure chocolate melted, 3 eggs room temp, 1 cup all-purpose flour mixed with 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp freshly ground black peppercorns, 1 tbsp fresh orange zest + extra butter to grease the Madeleine tin

Chocolate from GhanaTony's...Chocolate Bar

Madeleine Ingredients

Directions: 2 hours before baking make the batter

1. Cream butter & sugar together until light & fluffy using a stand or hand mixer. Add in vanilla extract & melted chocolate while mixer is running. Turn mixer to low.

2. Add in eggs one at a time until well blended.  Mixture should be light in color and very fluffy.

3.  Fold the flour mixture, the ground black pepper & the orange zest into the butter-chocolate mixture very gently. Cover batter with plastic & chill 1 to 2 hours.

DSC_6786Batter for Madeleines with Freshly ground black pepper from IndiaOrange Zest

4. When ready to bake preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter the Madeleine tin well using softened butter. Remove batter from the refrigerator.

Batter and Madeleine pan

5. Use a spoon to fill each “shell” with batter. When batter is baking it will melt and fill in the shape of the tin. (Another method is to put the batter in a piping bag and pipe batter into the shells.)

Chocolate Madeleine batter

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove tin from oven and turn Madeleines out onto a kitchen towel to cool. If you have extra batter (I did) then let tin cool, re-butter and repeat baking process. This recipe made about 16 Madeleines.

baked Madeleines

Chocolate Madeleines

Soft and pillowy with crispy thin edges…chocolate with just a hint of orange & black pepper..international & local…a culinary G7!

“Night Watch” (The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq) by Rembrandt van Rijn 1642

Bon Appetit Y’all

“Veritable Vanilla” EAT #5

Vanilla Extract, Homemade, Gifts

I have a front hall closet where one can find many things “brewing”. It is a veritable laboratory for making Limoncello, Blood Orangecello, Poire William & Vanilla Extract.  It is the gifting time of year and what better gift to bestow on fellow cooks than a bottle of homemade vanilla extract?

The only tricky part is planning ahead. I started this batch a few months ago, every so often stopping by to give it a shake. Otherwise it just sat in the dark steeping…getting darker by the week. It is as “easy as this”…..

Easy Vanilla Extract

It’s December 15 and it is time…to decant, label & do a little gift-giving.

Simple recipe:

1 liter of vodka, about 10-15 vanilla beans split & a few months

1. Place split vanilla beans down into bottle of vodka. Replace lid & shake. Place in dark closet or cabinet & shake about once a week. I waited 6 months to decant. I started this batch in July. Every week the extract darken and gets a richer looking color.

Handmade Vanilla Extract

2. Decant carefully into glass bottles that have been sterilized in boiling water & air-dried. Add a tight-fitting lid. (My extract was very “clean” so I did not strain it, but you can add this step if you have lots of particulates in the liquid.

(There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of recipes on the internet for making your own vanilla extract. My recipe is easy but there are many other good easy recipes available that might suit you better…or make up your own.)

Bottling Homemade Vanilla Extract

Simple Gift Labeling

I made labels with a simple roller alphabet stamp (on-line/Paper Source) & plain brown tags. I “sealed” the top of the bottles with sticky backed decorative tape (Martha Stewart at Michaels).

Making Vanilla Extract

I know that for the most part Vanilla should be stored in dark bottles, but as most folks keep their extracts in a cabinet or pantry I used these pretty clear bottles I already had. You can also find a large assortment of dark bottles at The Container Store if you prefer.

…make it, bake it…give it this Holiday….it’s “easy as that”

Nirvana in a Bowl / Silky Squash Soup with Vanilla

“Nirvana in a Bowl”

One Butternut Squash & a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula are the main ingredients for this soup recipe.

One was left languishing on my kitchen counter after a  photo shoot, the other was where I secreted off to, to do some personal languishing…a geographical place I love for all that it is. No phones, no television, no blogging…nada. Beaches, hammocks on porches, intriguing & delicious New World  food combinations, & quiet, absolute quiet except for the soft swish of palm  trees & waves.

All this Nirvana was punctuated by eating, which for me is nirvana. One night my friend, Terry, and I went to a small beach restaurant, “Tabanos”, in Tulum where we encountered some very sublime culinary combinations. Very-not-touristy dishes using  traditional ingredients in some very surprising ways.

This is their menu board. I wanted to order everything. We tried!

The first sopa/soup on the menu I ordered. Creamy soup with tomatoes & papaya and the very unexpected addition of vanilla extract. Nirvana in a bowl!

Here is my recipe inspired by the above using my re-discovered Butternut Squash &  pure Mexican Vanilla extract.

Silky Squash Soup with Vanilla:

1 Winter Squash, 2 garlic cloves, 1 onion, 3 carrots – peeled & cut into large pieces

2 teaspoons ground cumin, sea salt & black pepper,  olive oil

3 tbsps Kerrygold butter (or any other good quality butter), 1 quart chicken stock

1 cup Lite Coconut Milk, I cup plain Greek  yogurt

2 tablespoons pure Mexican Vanilla Extract

Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet lined with parchment, sprinkle ground cumin, salt & black pepper over all,  drizzle with olive oil & toss. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until vegs are softened.

Melt butter in a stock pot. Add roasted vegetables & chicken stock. Bring to a boil & simmer 3o minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Put soup into a blender (work in batches if necessary) and blend until silky & smooth. Return to pan. Reheat on low & stir in coconut milk & yogurt until well blended.

Right before serving add a generous splash of pure Vanilla extract. Stir and serve soup hot with some crusty bread.  Pure, high quality Mexican Vanilla extract is not inexpensive, but a little goes a long way. It adds a hint of creamy, spicy & sweet to make this one bueno soup.

Back in Nashville, very wintry & a bit gloomy. I made this soup. Wouter & I had it for a late lunch. Things were much brighter and cozy…the creaminess without cream, the warm vanilla aroma… Nirvana in a bowl.

Both Butternut Squash & Vanilla are New World foods indigenous to Mexico.  If you do not have or cannot find Mexican pure vanilla extract  then use whatever you have. There are good quality Mexican vanilla extracts readily available online from King Arthur Flour  & Williams Sonoma among many other sites.

This is a perfect soup to start off a Thanksgiving dinner.  Leftover soup just gets better.

When in doubt…eat soup.