Making Vanilla Extract
Not only do I like to eat real food, but I also like to save money while doing it. I kept coming across recipes for homemade vanilla extract a couple years ago and I decided to give it a whirl. I am very happy with the results! There is nothing quite like pure vanilla extract. Imitation extract not only doesn’t have the same beautiful flavor, but it is filled with artificial flavors [chemicals], colors and corn syrup! Even in some of the store bought real vanilla you will come across these additives from time to time. Homemade extract give you a great price [cheaper than even the imitation stuff] and just the pure extract! No strange additives.
And best of all its not hard! In this round I made up a dozen jars to give as gifts for Christmas but I also made up another 1.75 liter bottle for me. :) I bake a lot and go through a lot of vanilla. I used up a 750 ml bottle in 10 months!
• Vodka [any brand is fine but nothing over 40% alcohol]
• Vanilla Beans
• … yep that’s it!
This bottle of vodka in the pic is a 1.75 liter bottle. There are various sizes out there. I had this bottle from a sale mixed with coupon and rebate. But I also have purchased another brand of the same size on sale for just under $10 [more on the price break down below].
I bought my vanilla beans through a great seller on Amazon.com. They offer various quantities from 1/4 lb up to a whole pound. I purchased the half pound size, which comes with about 54 beans. Plus I had some leftover from the last time I purchased. They are great quality beans and the price is excellent! If you don’t want as many but want a good price, consider splitting an order with a friend!
If you are making up a bottle just for yourself you don’t need any additional containers [unless you want a pretty container to display of course ;-) ]. Since I was also making these for gifts, I picked up some half pint canning jars [these jars specifically are Better Homes & Gardens brand from Walmart].
And a quick price breakdown…
- Average price of 4 oz of pure vanilla extract: $6-15 [depending on where you get it and the brand]
- My Cost for 1.75 ml bottle (about 60 oz): $24.41
- Which means that a 4 oz bottle of homemade vanilla cost me $1.62!
And it lasts for years! So consider this a good investment. Also I will add that I made up these jars for gifts. Adding in the cost of the jar, my end cost per 6 oz jar was $2.49. Not bad for a homemade gift! [and still cheaper than store bought by a long shot!]
So onto the process…
3 beans per 6 oz jar OR
12-15 beans in a 750 ml bottle OR
30 beans in a 1.76 liter bottle
Those quantities are adjustable, though I wouldn’t use less than that personally. I find it works well and has good results.
To begin – take your beans and use a small, sharp knife to gently score each bean lengthwise. You don’t want to cut all the way into the middle, just score the outer skin. Then cut the beans into 1/4′s or 1/3′s.
Then put the beans in your jars or into your bottle of vodka. NOTE: If you are making a big bottle, you will need to pour off about 1 cup or so of the vodka initially to make room for the beans. You can pour some back in at the end or save it to add in later once you use up some of the vanilla.
After your beans are in the jars, pour vodka into the jars to the fill line [base of the threaded part]. You want to leave that 1/2″ head space so that you can shake the jar.
Then close up the jars with the lids and give them all a good shake [or give your big bottle a good shake - be sure to leave a bit of head space in the big bottles as well].
Now you just wait – well wait AND shake. Give your bottle/jars a shake daily, or at least a few times/week. It generally takes 6-8 weeks for the vanilla to be initially ready. You will notice even within a few days that the vodka is turning tan, then browner and browner.
I like to have a separate bottle to pour my finished vanilla into once it’s ready. I pour out half of it and then I fill up the original bottle (with beans) with fresh, new vodka. The beans in there still have “life” left to them so they will continue to make more beautiful vanilla. Eventually you will notice that they are not as potent anymore (you won’t get as dark of vanilla). When that happens you can just add 5 or so new beans to the mix.
Oh and one other note – you CAN make this without cutting up the beans. I would recommend at least scoring the bean as described above. However the process will likely take longer to become a nice finished/strong vanilla. Cutting the beans speeds up the process.
And here are some pics of the final product…
And a closeup of the jars – you can see the beans in there…
And here is one all wrapped up for gifting! [I made some tags with business cards on my printer.] I received so many wonderful comments from people who I gifted these to. I never expected to get such great feedback. Everyone loved them!