Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

As you may know, I participate in Foodie Friday at several sites most Fridays. One thing I love about linking up on Fridays is getting new ideas from other creative bloggers. Several folks who've participated in the past few months have posted instructions for making vanilla extract at home, and I just had to try it. (Here's the first one I bookmarked, from Food, Fun, and Fotos; also featured in present ideas from the kitchen on Natural Parents Network.)

I'll re-post with an update in a few months when it's finished, so everyone can see the results!

Vanilla extract is vanilla beans and alcohol (most commonly, vodka). It would've been hard to find a simpler do-it-yourself project, really. Here are the instructions, in case you're interested in doing it, too:

  1. Buy some vanilla beans. I'm not sure if it matters what kind you get. I read that there's an "extract grade" vanilla bean. I bought some that looked delicious from the bulk section at our local grocery store. The proportion for regular vanilla extract is 3 beans to 1 cup of vodka. Apparently there's a "bakers' strength" which is 6 beans to each cup of vodka. I bought 6 beans, and filled the jar with vodka (approximately 6 beans to 1.5 cups vodka—I don't think the proportions can be done wrong, but I'm not an extract expert).
    Here are my beans, ready for splitting.
  2. Split the beans down the middle. Cut down the middle of the bean deep enough to expose the tiny black seeds within, but not so deep that you split it all the way through. (That probably wouldn't be so terrible, though, just a tad bit more messy.) I don't know why I didn't take a photograph of this step, as it's pretty integral to making the extract. All I can say is: vanilla beans are sticky, and they smell amazing.

  3. Place the beans in a glass jar (or jars) with lid that can be closed tightly. You could buy cute decorative jars (if you're into that) if you're giving the extract as a gift. Or, like I did, you could be frugal and re-use an empty canning jar:
    If you've lost any of the bean innards in the cutting process, scrape whatever you can into the jar (See the lip of my jar? I did it!)

  4. Cover the beans with vodka. Experimentation with different kinds of liquor can be a fun idea, too, just make sure the alcohol you use is at least 80 proof.
  5. Store the jar in a cool, dry place.

  6. Shake it up now, and remember to shake it a few times per week. (Some people are more specific about how often you should shake, like: every day for a week, then at least three times per week for three months; or: twice a week for six months.) Apparently, when the vodka is amber colored, it's ready to use. This might take as little as two months or as long as six. Again, I don't think you can mess it up. Just remember to shake!

  7. Use for baked treats! I'm looking forward to getting to this step.

4/4/11: The extract is finished! See the update here.


  1. This is so easy and it is a great way to use up the vodka we have left over from parties. Thanks for the tips. I definitely want to try it with some of the other flavored alcohols. I wonder what an amaretto would be like?

    1. Mmmm...I don't know, but it sounds good! Besides using it for baking, I often use a little of this extract in my coffee in the morning for a hint of vanilla. Delicious!

  2. I am so excited to try this. My husband is out of town and there is a half-full bottle of rum on the counter...I may have to sub that for vodka! Thank you for the post.

    1. Sounds like a great idea! Let me know how it turns out!

  3. Wow - I had no idea it was this easy! Thanks for sharing!

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