On April 1, 2010, my husband Troy was laid off from a job he didn’t really like. It was a crushing blow to our household, and we went from possessing disposable income to scrounging for spare change to buy groceries. That year, in an effort to find costs savings everywhere, I decided to make homemade Christmas and holidays presents. Among the many things I crafted that year, making homemade vanilla extract was the most successful. Seven years later, and it is still one of the most requested items from friends and family.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
An easy way to make delicious homemade vanilla extract. Homemade vanilla extract is richer and deeper than storebought and will make your homemade goodies taste amazing.
- 4 vanilla beans (per)
- 1 cup vodka or bourbon
For every cup of vodka or bourbon, use 4 vanilla beans
Cut each vanilla bean down the middle to access the insides. Put them in an air-tight container with a screw on lid (I use mason jars), and put in a sunny window for a week. Shake daily.
After a week is up, transfer to a cool dark location like a pantry or closet. Shake every few days to help distribute the vanilla flavor and to activate the infusing action.
The vanilla will be ready when the liquor has turned very dark and smells strongly of vanilla and not alcohol. To gift, distribute amongst smaller bottles, and put a fun label on it. Do not strain or filter the vanilla; part of the magic of homemade vanilla extract is the little flecks of vanilla bean that infuses itself in your cooking.
When choosing alcohol to use in this recipe, there is no need to use a top-shelf product. Frankly, I purchase the Costco Kirkland Signature brand vodka for my extract and it works great at a low price. I have used both vodka and bourbon in the past and strongly prefer vodka. I felt that the bourbon took forever to “turn” into a finished product. The taste in cooking and baking wasn’t much different and given the cost, I continually find myself returning to using vodka.
When purchasing vanilla beans, you’ll find the cost savings comes by buying in bulk. Many grocery stores charge $4-7 per bean! I purchase mine on Amazon, but restaurant supply stores are also good resources. Store the beans that you are not using in a cool dry place. I double wrap mine in freezer ziploc bags and keep them in our pantry.
Some people find the vanilla ready to use after a month or so, but I highly recommend you let this product wait and mature. The longer you allow it to sit, the more intense the overall flavor will be. With the rising cost of vanilla beans, I never discard them once a batch of vanilla has been finished. You can put a piece of vanilla bean in each gift bottle for a cool visual look. I simply keep them in the brewing bottles, add another bean or two, and make a new batch of extract! Additionally, you could use spent beans for flavoring homemade ice cream, puddings, or vanilla sugar.