Make Your Own: Vanilla Extract

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

Did you know you can make your own vanilla extract? Not only is it ridiculously simple, it’s also some of the best vanilla you’ll ever taste at a fraction of the cost of what you pay for a bottle of vanilla at your local grocery store. A couple of years ago I made vanilla extract to give as Christmas presents and I haven’t bought vanilla extract since!

Have you made your own? No? Curious how it works? Let’s get started!

What You’ll Need:
Vanilla beans, cut in half
A canning jar with a lid

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Ready to Go

First off you’ll need to decide what size jar you want to use. When I’m making it for myself (or close friends/family) I go with the quart sized jar. For gifts the pint sized jar works too. Rule of thumb, a liter of vodka will pretty much fill a quart sized jar.

Next you want some vodka. I like to use Irish vodka?

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Irish Vodka

Why? Well I have this fascination with all things Irish, but you can use whatever kind of vodka you like.

Next let’s talk vanilla beans!

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Vanilla Beans

You’re going to need 6-8 vanilla beans. First off do NOT go to the store and buy those stupid vanilla beans that are one in the jar for like $10 or something, because then you’re going to have one pricey bottle of vanilla extract! That defeats the purpose of making your own and saving yourself some money.

You want to get online either on EBay or and do a search for vanilla beans. I like to buy the organic version, but you’ve heard my ideas on organic before. You can get a large number of vanilla beans for next to nothing! I bought some a couple of years ago and paid like $14 for 100! I still have them in my pantry and they are just as good as they were the day I bought them.

Trust me, go forth and search. I’ll wait….

Did you search? See I told you! Now order yourself some vanilla beans already! ;oP

Now where were we?

Cut each vanilla bean in half:

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Vanilla Beans Cut In Half

Place the split beans in a jar and cover with vodka:

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Ready to "Steep"

Be sure and put the lid on tight.

Now comes the waiting part. This process does take a few weeks, about 6 to be exact, until it’s ready to use. All you need to do is sit it in your pantry, or on your counter out of direct sun light, and give the jar a little shake now and then. It will start to turn a beautiful brown color and you’ll know it’s ready to go. Once it’s done you use it just like you use the vanilla extract you buy at the store.

Below is a picture of the extract at various stages:

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Ready to "Steep, Ready to Use and Almost Used Up!

The clear jar is the one I just put together. The jar in the middle is one I put together in December of 2009 and the jar that is almost empty is the one I’ve been using since December of 2007. Neat hunh?

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: My Two Year Old Jar Almost Empty

Not only is this sinfully easy, it’s also quick! The entire process of getting it in to the jar takes less than 5 minutes. A little forethought is needed so that you have it ready to go when you need it since it needs to “steep” for 6 weeks or so, but shaking it here and there is neither difficult nor time consuming. When you’re done you’ve got a fabulous vanilla extract that just can’t be beat!

Notes: I did a little experiment when I made my first batch and used several different types of alcohol as an experiment. For the record bourbon and rum work OK too, though vodka is my favorite medium. The tequila? Well that one didn’t turn out too great. You can’t win them all! ;oP

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