DIY Vanilla Extract

One of my college friends, who happens to be an excellent cook, told me the secret of homemade vanilla extract a few years ago. It's so easy and delicious! I can't believe I waited as long as I did to make my first batch.

 

You will need ...

  • an 8 ounce (250 mL) bottle
  • 8 ounces (250 mL) Vodka or Rum
  • 3 (or more) Vanilla beans

Steps:

  1. Slice open the vanilla beans and then chop them into pieces small enough to fit at the bottom of your bottle - about 1 inch or so.
  2. Put the chopped vanilla bean pieces into your clean bottle.
  3. Top up the bottle with your alcohol of choice
  4. Give your bottle a shake every few days and try to have patience as the alcohol draws out the wonderful vanilla flavor! After 2 weeks there will be enough flavor for your extract to be usable, but it will continue to get better for almost 2 months.

Notes & Options

  • I used 10 vanilla beans in an 8-ounce bottle. It wasn't much more expensive to buy 10 beans than 3, I didn't have a use at the time for extra bottles of extract or for the whole vanilla beans, and more vanilla beans per bottle certainly won't hurt anything.
  • When your bottle starts running low, you can add more alcohol and continue to draw more flavor out of the same vanilla beans.
  • The first time I tried making homemade vanilla extract I used potato vodka and it turned out wonderful. Most recently I've been using vodka and rum from Idaho's Bardenay distillery. These are sugar cane liquors and I've noticed a nice sweet character to my vanilla extract this time around. Plus the folks I've contacted at Bardenay were very nice and super helpful!
  • You can strain or filter your vanilla extract into a fresh bottle after about 2 months. I prefer to keep it in the bottle with the vanilla beans and just pour carefully when using it.
  • Distillation is extremely effective at separating things like ethanol and protein molecules. Gluten and other allergens are protein molecules. So, my use of grain-free liquors might be unnecessarily cautious, but I figure if there's a readily available grain-free option, I might as well use that one.
  • Update: Alli, the friend who told me how to make vanilla extract, shared her online bottle source with me: Specialty Bottle. She reminded me about the importance of using specifically extract-grade "B" vanilla beans, which are drier (and cheaper) than grade A. And finally, noted that the ratio for commercial strength extract is about 1 bean per ounce of alcohol.
Copyright 2017 Amanda Hansen all rights reserved

This is the link to the same vanilla beans that I bought on amazon for making my vanilla extract.

 

And this link is for the 8-ounce amber bottles I bought on amazon for my extract. (Yes, they're laboratory bottles. My kitchen is a lab, so I figured it was appropriate!)