Where is my Vanilla extract?

Uncle Bernie drank my Aunt Edna’s Vanilla Extract (era 1940’s & 50’s.)  He also drank a bottle of Aqua Velva after shave that I gave him one year for Christmas.  He had a problem! 

Uncle Bernie front 

Bernie Fuggit-2nd man in from left-1931 

Now, I’m not telling stories that the family is not aware of.  It’s the truth and many of the remaining family members remember those days of long ago.  Aunt Edna had to hide her Vanilla extract – a sad but true situation. 


Aunt Edna-in apron and sisters-my Mom on left

I remember watching her go into the pantry, a small dark closet space under the front stairs in the big old homestead, and come out of there pretty quickly, storming past me and yelling for Bernie!  “Where is my vanilla extract?”, she would yell aloud.  Her apron would be flapping as she blew through the house calling his name, and I’d be running right behind her.  Of course, Bernie wasn’t there, or if he was, he was out cold somewhere sleeping off his intoxication.  Vanilla extract has always been expensive for a household.  Pure vanilla extract is required to be a minimum of 35% alcohol per 13.35 ounces of vanilla bean per gallon, per FDA.  No wonder he liked it!

Vanilla Extracts and Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla Extracts and Vanilla Sugar

I was watched over at the old homestead during the day while my Mom and Dad worked.  Dad would drop me off early in the morning and pick me up in the late afternoon.  Some days I would watch Uncle Bernie swear at my Aunt Edna when she presented him with fresh homemade vegetable soup for lunch.  He slopped it everywhere as he ate it.  As he was being rude, crude  and totally  disrespectful toward her, she would say “Bernie, I know plenty of men that would give their right arm for me.”  That is how it went on for years.  I wasn’t scared, I just stood behind Aunt Edna and held her apron strings.  I don’t remember him ever being mean to me or my cousins also being raised at the house.  He taught us mumbley-peg out under the big old tree in the yard and he taught me my alphabet backwards – this was all while he was “drunk as a skunk.”   Sadly and truthfully, that is all I remember about Uncle Bernie.  It’s just one of those weird family memories that clangs around in my head when I look at old pictures.


The Old Homestead, Rockville, MD

But, here’s the sad part of this story about vanilla.   Uncle Bernie finally sobered up one day and went to work.  That day, a building fell on him and he died.   It was just so ironic in the timing and how it all happened.  The family always felt that since Aunt Edna was a god-fearing woman, that the Lord was there protecting her and helping her deal with her husband and sons that were going astray.  Aunt Edna was a second mother to me and a strong woman.  I learned a lot from her in many ways.  No one should drink a woman’s vanilla extract! 

 Vanilla Extract 1

October 2012-The Experiment begins…

This year I decided to make my own vanilla extract to give as Christmas presents.  I did some research on the internet and came up with several recipes.  Basically, vodka and vanilla beans.  In early October, I purchased several fresh vanilla beans, cut them in half and placed them in a tall canning jar filled with vodka.  This jar has been sitting in the dark for over two months and every few days I go in and give it a shake.  It will be ready for gift presentation by Christmas.

Van Extract almost ready

December 2012-Almost ready

I have read the labels of other vanilla extract I have in my pantry.  There seems to be a sweetener added. I have not added any sweetener to my batch.

Storing the extract

Dark-dark storage-good spot for hiding chocolate too!

 Always buy plump vanilla beans.  The hard, dark and shriveled bean is past its prime for use.  The bean can be split and placed in white sugar to flavor it for baking purposes.       


 TIP:  1 whole vanilla bean = 2-3 teaspoonful of vanilla extract


 Happy Holidays to my family, friends and followers – do not drink the vanilla extract!   Blogging will now take the back burner while I begin my frantic baking-starting with vanilla sugar drop cookies.  Here is an old recipe of my Aunt Edna’s that was passed along to my Mom, and now to me. 

 Vanilla Sugar Drop Cookies

Yields: 5  1/2 dozen


2  1/2 cups flour

1/2 t soda

1/2 t salt

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 t  vanilla

1 egg

2 T milk

Options: Food coloring, red & green sugar sprinkles

Stir dry ingredients, blend in rest of ingredients, drop on ungreased sheet, flatten with rippled bottom glass dipped in sugar.  Add color sugar sprinkles.  Bake 375 for 10 or 11 minutes.  Check at 9 minutes. 


Beautiful cookie images-courtesy of StockFood America.

 With  love and respect for family and friends, I wish you very Happy Holidays ~  Susan

3 thoughts on “Where is my Vanilla extract?

  1. Well, Susan, I loved your stories. Sometimes I’ll tell you about the bootleggers in my O’Neale family! ha ha. Now I gotta go plant some vanilla bean plants!

  2. Susan…Appreciate you sharing your memories of the old homestead. My dad has the same memories of Bernie with his drinking issue and how kind Edna was. Glad she was able
    to stand her ground with him. Merry Christmas!

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