Do you dream of having a pantry stocked with the most delicious, homemade pantry staples? Vanilla extract is the perfect place to start, and with just two ingredients and some patience, you can whip up a batch of homemade extract for all your baking recipes.
Have you heard the one about the woman you went into the liquor store and asked for a gallon of vodka?
That was me. 🙂
And you should have seen the looks on their faces!
Apparently, vodka is not sold by the gallon, it’s sold by the liter. So, then I had to try to figure out how many liters make a gallon.
We finally decided that 2-1.75 liter bottles would be about a gallon.
I am sure you are all fascinated by that bit of information and are now asking yourselves, “Why in the world would anyone need a whole gallon of vodka?”
And the answer to that question is, “To turn it into a whole gallon of vanilla extract, of course!”
This little vanilla adventure started when I saw a blog post about making your own vanilla.
Since I had recently thrown mine out (after I discovered the stuff I had contained high fructose corn syrup), I wanted to give it a try and make my own vanilla extract.
So I got a few vanilla beans and a small bottle of vodka. I stuck the beans in the bottle and waited.
After about 6 weeks I was enjoying using my very own homemade vanilla extract.
No artificial anything, and no HFCS!
I decided that homemade vanilla extract would be a great Christmas gift for my friends and family that bake.
And that, my friends, is where that whole gallon of vodka comes in. And since it’s getting harder to find pure vanillas at the grocery store, it’s the perfect plan even if you don’t have any bakers to gift it to!
All Vanilla Beans Are Not The Same
You can make homemade vanilla extract in so many different flavors. Every vanilla bean has a slightly different flavor. The most common are Mexican vanilla beans, Tahitian vanilla beans, and Madagascar vanilla beans.
There are different grades of vanilla beans. Grade A and Grade B. While the Grade B beans are most often used for making vanilla extract (because they are smaller), you can use either with the same results.
And the alcohol you choose will also change the vanilla’s flavor slightly. You need to use 80 proof alcohol. But you can use vodka, rum, bourbon, or even brandy for a more gourmet touch.
It takes anywhere from 4 to 6 months to make a gallon of extract.
At 4 months you can begin to use it and at 6 months it is double strength.
And as a bonus, after I made the extract I dried the beans and used them to make vanilla sugar and vanilla cinnamon sugar. I used dehydrated sugar cane juice, but any kind of sugar will work.
These directions will make a gallon of homemade vanilla extract.
You can, of course, make smaller batches, but your story won’t be nearly as funny. 🙂
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 1 gallon of 80 proof vodka (or alcohol of your choice)
- 80 ish organic fresh vanilla beans (approx 3/4 pound)
- gallon size glass jar with lid (or mason jars with lids)
- sharp knife
- coffee filter or cheesecloth for straining
- small funnel
- dark colored glass jars with lids
- cute labels
The first step is to split the vanilla bean pods lengthwise to within about an inch of one end. You can do this with scissors or with a very sharp knife.
Then you put all those lovely vanilla beans in the jar and pour the vodka (or other alcohol) over them until they are covered.
There will be some oil from the beans and little dark flecks in the vodka.
Put the lid on the jar and shake it well. Now you need to put the jar in a cool, dark place.
Annnd this is where the patience part comes in. Because now we wait.
About once a month or so you need to shake the jar to get things all mixed up again.
The longer you let it sit, the stronger the vanilla’s flavor will be. I like mine to be double strength, so I usually let it sit for at least 6 months. And if you put a bean in each bottle as you decant it, it will just continue getting stronger as you are using it.
How to Bottle Homemade Vanilla Extract
Every time I take the lid off a batch of vanilla extract, I just can’t get over the delicious aroma that wafts through the air.
When you are ready to bottle it, you can put it straight into dark bottles, or you can strain it through a coffee filter or cheesecloth into a large pot.
Straining will remove the vanilla flecks and most of the oil that came from the beans. I don’t usually bother with that anymore, though.
All that’s left is to put it in the bottles. I use a small funnel and a glass measuring cup to pour the finished vanilla extract into the bottle. Pour slowly though! Those little guys don’t hold nearly as much as you think they do!
I put a vanilla bean in each bottle before adding the extract. That way, if you are giving them as gifts, the recipients can add a little more vodka to the bottle as they use it.
I got those cool 4oz amber bottles online. I made the labels using the free Avery online label designer program. And I got some plastic heat shrink seals to go over the lids just to make sure they stayed sealed when I mailed them for gifts.
The sugars also make great gifts. I like to use the plain in my hot tea and I sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over my oatmeal.
It’s also really good on grapefruit.
What would you use the sugars for? Can’t wait to hear your ideas!
And there you have it. Pure vanilla extract in pretty glass bottles. I make a new batch once a year because I have several people that I give a bottle to every year at Christmas.
Frequently Asked Questions About Homemade Vanilla Extract
If the vanilla is in a dark bottle away from excessive heat, it will last indefinably.
I don’t know that there is a “best”. Vodka gives you the purest vanilla flavor because it doesn’t really have a flavor of it’s own. Bourbon and rum will both give the extract a little of their own flavor. And since different vanilla beans have slightly different flavors, you could make a wide variety of extracts with different flavor profiles.
Yes, absolutely! I have always used the same amount in recipes. Actually, that’s not true. I almost always use more. But I always did that with the store bought stuff, too. I like vanilla flavor.
Vanilla should always be stored in a dark glass bottle away from sunlight in a cool, dark place.
More things to replace in your pantry:
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 80 vanilla beans any type
- 1 gallon vodka or other 80 proof alcohol
- Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise, leaving about an inch intact at the end.
- Place beans in glass jar with lid.
- Pour vodka over the beans to cover.
- Let sit in a cool, dark place for 4 to 6 months, shaking about once a week.
- Strain through cheesecloth or coffee filter. (This step is optional).
- Put in dark colored bottles. Label and date. Store in a cool, dark place.