If there’s one “secret” I’ve never forgotten that my grandma shared with me, it was to always add a little more vanilla into any recipe than it called for when baking. I often spent a good majority of my summers in my grandma’s cozy, apple decorated kitchen in North Minneapolis playing cribbage, baking + holding onto every word she spoke. Her laugh was contagious and her heart poured out love to anyone and everyone she met, often via something delicious from her oven.
One day while baking chocolate chip cookies, my cousin and I elbow deep in the batter (because that was the best way to mix it, after all) my grandma looked at me and said, “Julia – two things make recipes better. The first is to always cook or bake with love. If it comes from your heart, the food will reflect that. It doesn’t have to be fancy, the love will make it special. The second is to add another pour of vanilla than the recipe calls for.”
I’ve since told these very same words of advice to my daughters when we bake together. My four year old knows these tricks and even blows kisses into every ingredient.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may recall this Christmas I received a gift that moved me beyond words. Every year my grandma would make a batch of homemade vanilla. The last year of her life (12 years ago) we each received a bottle for Christmas. My brother saved his, aged it & split it three ways for himself, my mom and me to share. It was the most selfless + thoughtful gift. I’ve already used it once, but plan to save it for special recipes or occasions.
In honor of her memory – I’m sharing the recipe with you. It makes the most flavorful vanilla and is worth the wait during the aging process. As with a fine wine, the longer you age it, the better it becomes. Enjoy, friends!
- 750 ML bottle of Brandy (My grandma used Christian Brothers)
- 3-4 Madagascar vanilla beans, split
- Clean glass liter bottle with a stopper (you can find these at any craft store or IKEA.)
- Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla beans down the middle + place them in the liter bottle.
- Pour the brandy into the liter bottle + close. Gently swirl the bottle.
- Store in a dark closet, gently swirling every month + return to the closet. Age a minimum of 12 months before using.