Pure Vanilla Extract – Home Made, of course!

A little while ago, I stumbled upon the most informative and stunningly beautiful post ever on the art of making pure vanilla extract at home.

Of course, I’d bookmarked it so I could eventually share it with you…

The only problem is, now that I am ready to share, I can’t seem to find that bookmark anywhere.

Ugh.

I even remember tweeting it that day when I read it. I tried finding that, but tweets being very ephemeral in nature, they are very hard to track back after a certain (as in VERY short) time.

Well, at least, I memorized the essential parts of that article, at least I think I did.

So here goes.

First and foremost, you need to use LOTS of vanilla beans. Anything less than 8 beans to a cup of vodka and you’re only making “Vanilla Flavored Vodka”. 

Aaaaah, so that’s why I’d never really been super impressed with home made vanilla extract in the past. Vanilla beans being so expensive, I never used much more than 3-4 beans to a cup and a half vodka.

Then one day, I realized that vanilla beans could be purchased online for a MUCH better price. There are plenty of great resources where you can buy the precious scented beans in bulk.

Oh! The joy!

I now buy my vanilla by the pound and, while the initial investment might be a little steep, the price per bean gets considerably lowered, so much so I can now use vanilla in pretty much anything I fancy… from nut butter to smoothies!

Never, in the past, would I have even considered using a $4 vanilla bean in a smoothie. But lower that price tag down to something like ¢50? I say just just throw it right in.

Even half of one could do the job, but I love those little black specks so much… I just can’t get enough!

And have you ever tried shoving your nose into a bag full of fresh vanilla beans?

OH! THE SMELL!!! TOTAL, COMPLETE BLISS, I TELL YOU!

Alright, let’s get back to that awesome article, shall we? Another thing it did mention is that you should never heat  your vodka when you make vanilla extract. Why is that, you ask? Hmpft. I wish I remembered…  But it made perfect sense, I swear!

Hey, don’t give me a hard time, alright? I said I only remembered the essential, didn’t I? ;)

Now, I’d been meaning to make this batch of vanilla absolutely gluten free (I started it during Lent, you see) but unfortunately, I was unable to get my hands on a suitable non-grain vodka. They didn’t carry ANY at my local liquor store.

Also, it is said that the distillation process removes all traces of gluten from alcohol, but there is much debate about whether this is true or not.

So if you really are truly gluten intolerant, or if you’re a real purist, or if you’re simply a tad crazy and determined not to cheat on your Lent challenge like I was and want to make your vanilla extract absolutely, indubitably gluten free, well, all you need to do is find a vodka that’s not made from grains.

Did you know that they actually made vodka not only from potatoes, but also from grapes, soybeans and even beets?

Yep, beets!

I didn’t even known that before I started looking for gluten free vodka. Not too suprisingly, they didn’t carry that either at my local liquor store. … hopefully you’ll have more luck finding it than I did!

Oh, right… one more thing!

No one says you HAVE to use vodka. It would be the most “neutral” choice, but you could very well choose to go with rum or bourbon… Needless to say the resulting flavor would be  extremely different, but very interesting nonetheless, especially for those sweet tasting dishes, you know.

I’ve never tried it personally, but I get the feeling that I will…

Fairly soon!

Home Made Pure Vanilla Extract

Home Made Pure Vanilla Extract

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 vanilla beans (or more, if you like)
  • 1 cup good quality vodka (use vodka made from potatoes or other non-grain vodka if you want to go gluten-free)
  • Mason jars or decorative bottles
  • Feel free to double or triple up this recipe, just make sure you keep this same ratio of 8 vanilla beans to 1 cup booze

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cut the vanilla beans to the length of your jar (you want to make sure they're all fully covered) and slice them lengthwise, but only through half of it. You want to expose the seeds but keep the ends attached.
  2. Place beans in the selected jar(s) or bottle(s) and completely cover with vodka.
  3. Place the lid on and shake gently. Put away in a cool, dark place (such as your cupboard!) and give it a couple of gentle shakes each day for about a week or so. You can also leave your bottles on the counter at this time if it helps you remember.
  4. After a week has passed, you can start shaking less often, like once or twice a week, for about a month. And don't worry, your vanilla isn't going to be ruined if you forget to shake it a few times.
  5. Your vanilla will be ready to use after 6 to 8 weeks, but I like to wait at least 3 months before I use mine. Just make sure you give it a little shake once in a while...
  6. When your bottle is about 25% empty, you can top it off with more vodka without affecting the taste too much, but ideally, when you do that, you want to let is sit again for a couple of weeks. That's why I prefer to have 2 bottles going simultaneously. That way, when I top one off, I can use the other one until it too, needs to be topped off, at which point I switch back to the other one. This allows your vanilla to rest without you having to ever hang dry!
  7. Of course, you can't just top off forever... else you're going to end up with that Vanilla Flavored Vodka again... When you find that your vanilla starts to be a little weak on the vanilla side and a little strong on booze, it's time to get a new batch started and let those bottles you already have go completely dry...
http://thehealthyfoodie.com/vanilla-extract/

Start with a whole bunch of fresh vanilla beans and good quality vodka

Slit vanilla beans, stuff them into pretty bottles, top with vodka…

Shake gently, wait patiently, and be greatly rewarded!

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Your pics are gorgeous. I’m finally inspired to get around to making my own vanilla. Now, rum or bourbon or vodka… the omnivore’s dilemma, indeed! Thanks for the beautiful post.

    • says

      Thanks much, Muriel! Glad I inspired you to go out and make vanilla. Hey, why not make a bottle of each? You could just buy the small (what is it, 10oz?) bottles and throw your vanilla beans directly in there? Then you could tell me which one you liked best! ;)

      Heck, I’m loving this idea. Why didn’t I think of that earlier? I sense a visit to the liquor store is going to be happening very soon for this foodie…

  2. says

    Absolutely gorgeous and thank you for sharing. I have three (dumb) questions for you if you don’t mind answering?

    1. Could you do this alcahol free? I often get questions about alcahol free options….
    2. Where do you buy those gorgeous vanilla pods (you mention an online resource)? I have a bag I bought in Uganda once and I savour every last seed. It is bordering on obsession now….
    3. How long do they keep you think…as in months?

    Sorry about the dumb questions….I am a ‘home-made-vanilla-virgin’….

    Regards
    Sigrun

    • says

      There is no such thing as a dumb question, and I don’t mind answering at all! In fact, it’s a true pleasure!

      1. I have no idea… guess I’d have to research that. I know that alcohol free vanilla exists, but I wouldn’t know how to replicate at home…
      2. Vanilla beans are really widely available on the Internet. Just google “Vanilla Beans Bulk” and you will get TONS of results. Hint: ebay happens to be a very good source! ;)
      3. Vanilla beans keep for a VERY long time, months, years, so long as you keep them in an air tight container, to keep them from drying. But I’m telling you, when you have them in the cupboards in rather large quantity, you start using them in places you’d have never imagined… like salads! ;)

      Hope this post inspired you to give this home made vanilla a try! And thank you for your great comment! :)

    • shadow says

      if you make it first, then warm it before storing, the heat evaporates all alcohol, this is how one gives essential oils to an alcoholic. food cooked in wine etc is all alcohol free, hope this helps

  3. says

    Great post! I have a mental barrier when it comes to recipes that take 6-8 weeks. But then 2 months fly by and I end up at the same spot without any home made vanilla extract :-(. I think I need some vodka to cheer up :-). Seriously, this requires a lot of patience, but sounds like it pays off.
    p.s., beautiful shots :-)
    and I am still planning on making your watermelon salad. I am waiting for a sunny day, so that maybe I could take pics (it’s so cloudy here in our sunny Vancouver).

    • says

      Oh, but Elana, it might take 6 to 8 weeks before the vanilla is ready, but really, it requires no work at all! 5 minutes max to slit the vanilla beans and shove them in the bottle, top with alcohol and put lid on. Then it’s only a matter of gently shaking once a day, which takes the better part of, hum, 10 seconds?

      Oh, and if you don’t want to be bothered with the bottling thing, just buy a small bottle of booze and throw your pods directly in it!

      Seriously, it’s worth making, trust me!

      Hope the sun comes out soon so you can finally try that salad. Can’t wait to hear your impressions! :)

  4. says

    Oh my gosh, what beautiful photos! I have some vanilla beans coming in the mail today so that I can make more vanilla extract. I’ve been unimpressed with homemade vanilla too, but I think we didn’t use enough vanilla beans. And what pretty bottles! I just ordered tons of glasses and bottles but I never saw anything like those. Very nice. :) And I really love that second to last shot!

    • says

      Thanks a bunch, Erin. Funnny, I think that my bottles are super boring and have been trying to find better ones for months now, to no avail. These ones I get at a local “hardware” store… nothing fancy! Too funny that you should have bottles AND vanilla beans coming to you in the mail shortly. Hey, where did you order your bottles from? Maybe I would like yours better?

      Oh, and thanks for your lovely compliments on my photos. I always appreciate those! :D

      Oh, and yeah… using MORE vanilla beans makes a world of difference!

    • says

      After I left my comment I went to my mail box the vanilla beans were waiting for me! :) I made a few bottles with different amounts of beans, just to see. I want to give some away at Christmas (they only have vanilla sugar here, no extract) and so I’m experimenting. If I can get away with less than 8 beans per cup, I’ll be happy. They have six months to… eh, ripen.

      My link won’t help you but I got them from here:
      http://glaeserundflaschen.de/FLASCHEN/Buegelverschluss

      I got like 30 bottles and glasses. My husband was kind of speechless when he saw my order. But he doesn’t get that I need pretty jars for my nut butters. I’m sure you can understand. :)

      • says

        Of course, you need jars for nut butter! And for vanilla extract, too! 30 bottles is a bare minimum, you know! ;) I did see your instagram… you didn’t waste any time, did you? :D

        Thanks for the link… I don’t understand anything, but the pictures are pretty!

    • says

      I still have lots of vanilla beans left so I’m going to get more vodka. I tried some with bourbon so we’ll see have that one is. I’m going to have a vanilla emporium soon. :) Oh and I have another idea! The Germans use vanilla sugar instead of liquid vanilla, but I read that the vanilla sugar you buy in the store isn’t really just sugar and vanilla. It’s got artificial junk in there. So tons of Germans will be getting some homemade vanilla sugar for Christmas! It’s not something for you and me since we don’t really use white sugar, but at least it’s a good gift idea. :)

      And yeah, I was so excited when I saw this post and then went downstairs and saw my vanilla beans waiting for me! What a nice coincidence.

      • says

        LOL! Vanilla emporium is right! Just how much of the stuff did you order?

        I’ve made vanilla sugar pretty often in my life, for sticking your vanilla pods in sugar is a very good way to store them! You don’t get quite as strong a vanilla sugar as when you actually split the beans before you put them in the jar, but still, it does give a lovely fragrance to your sugar while keeping your beans fresh! Of course, I don’t do that anymore, since I don’t use white sugar, or well, any “granulated” sugar, for that matter.

        Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on bourbon vanilla. I’m very tempted to give it a try myself! ;)

  5. says

    Beautiful post. Great ideas. I think I saw a lady on a famous channel do something like this. I enjoy your way much more.

  6. says

    Ohhh vanillaaaa! I’ve always wondered if other vodkas could be used… aka, PINNACLE WHIPPED! How good would that be? Vanilla extract meets whipped cream… yummm! I should try your recipe though, your photos look amazing :)

    • says

      Sadly, that particular vodka is not available here in Canada. Darn. I sure would’ve loved to try it! Now you have to try it and report back with the results! ;)

      Thanks a bunch for the compliment, Jessica! Very kind of you to say! :D

  7. Natalie says

    I’ve had an unsuccessful experience with homemade vanilla extract… The name for that was “Vanilla Flavored vodka”. 2 months of wait for nothing. Now I need some courage to try one more time!

    • says

      I totally hear you Natalie. I got that too a lot in the past… not using enough beans, I guess. But this batch here is now 8 weeks old and I can taste a MAJOR difference from using more beans. I’ll give it another 3-4 weeks before I really start using it. By then, it should be really nice and super fragrant!

  8. Margarete says

    I’m really impressed with the quality of your photos! They’re really great! Now, I’m looking for a trustworthy place in the net to buy my vanillas and start my vanilla extract. Oh, by the way, I’ve seen this recipe in a Food Channel and they mentioned to use after 6 weeks, but I do really prefer yours.. Only half of this time.

    • says

      Why thank you very much Margaret! That is extremely kind of you to say. There really are a lot of great resources all over the Net where you can buy vanilla beans in bulk. Just google “vanilla beans bulk” and you will get tons of results. Of course, me being Canadian, I have to order from places that are either located in Canada or that will deliver to Canada. Buying stuff online isn’t always easy for us Canadians…

      And as far as when to start using the vanilla, it’s a matter of preference, really. The longer you let it sit, the better it’s gonna be! :)

  9. says

    I wonder if using really good quality beans makes a difference? I used beans from Beanilla, three to a cup of vodka, and three months later I had some of the most amazing – and intense – vanilla extract I’ve ever tasted.

    • says

      I don’t know, Erin… but you might be on to something. I’ve never used anything but grade “A” vanilla beans, but I guess all beans are not created equal. And there are so many different varieties too. Maybe some are stronger than others?

  10. says

    I’ve been thinking of making vanilla forever but somehow never got around to doing it! We once brought an huge batch of vanilla back when we were in Madagascar. it is soooo cheap there that it would almost be worth flying over there to get some more (lol, now that is maybe not the best financial option with the ticket prices being so high but ok) I got to find an online source as well as right now it is too expensive to make this… Off to find and online source now! Oooo, you know what; I just remember I found an online spices store last week. They might carry vanilla too!

    • says

      Oooooh… good to know. I might be planning my next trip to Madagascar! ;) Nah. Oh, wait. Do they also have vanilla in South Africa? Now THAT is one place that I would LOVE to visit! And if they also happen to have cheap vanilla beans that I could bring back, well… it might not change anything, but hey, it’s just giving me yet another reason for wanting to go. ;)

      For the time being, I think I’ll stick with the Internet. You might want to try ebay… there are quite a few sellers on there! Probably not as cheap as Madagascar, but still very decent prices! ;)

      • Mike says

        Vanilla does not grow in South Africa. We too import our pods from Madagascar. But don’t let that stop you visiting our beautiful country and enjoying everything else it has to offer!

      • says

        Awww, thank you Mike. I really hope that I will get to pay your country a little visit sometime. It really is high on my list of places that I want to visit. And I think you just made it go even higher! :)

  11. says

    Ahh thank you….of course, Google (dohhh!). Again, amazing recipe, photos and website, I can see the amount of work that goes into it all.

    • says

      Thanks much, Sigrun! I do put in a little bit of work… just a little bit! ;) Great feedback like that is always really appreciated. That’s what makes it all worthwhile! So thank you, very very much! :)

  12. Leslie says

    I’m wondering if you can advise why my home made vanilla still doesn’t taste like vanilla. I bought two small bottles (200 ml=just over 3/4 cup) of vodka, one Smirnoff and one Finlandia. One has tahitian vanilla beans and the other has madagascar vanilla beans, both purchased from Beanilla and used promptly. Each bottle has 6-7 beans. The beans were cut in half and one side slit down the middle and opened. They have been sitting for over 5 months in a dark cupboard, being shaken periodically. When the bottle is opened, you can smell the vanilla and the colour is dark but there is no vanilla taste. Frankly, they taste like Benylin Syrup! LOL Any suggestions to help my vanilla?

    • says

      Wish I could help you out here, Leslie… Looks like you did everything correctly, and used fine ingredients too! Seriously, I’ve never heard of Home Made Vanilla Extract going bad before. But it should definitely not taste like cough syrup!

      Maybe someone else will be able to offer some insight?

      Real sorry I can’t be of more help…

  13. karen koch says

    I received a quart of vanilla extract from a friend. Since I already had some in my cupboard, I put the quart in the refrigerater. I took it out recently and it smells like alcohol. Did I ruin it? Can it be saved?

    • says

      I don’t think that putting the vanilla in the refrigerator ruined it, Karen, although there is absolutely no need for it. Could it be that the vanilla is still too young and the flavors didn’t have time to fully develop? I say take it out of the fridge and give it a gentle shake two to three times a day for the next month or so, then try it again. Vanilla extract takes time… :)

      • karen says

        It was fine before I put it in the fridge so I dont think it is too young. Would adding more vanilla beans help?

      • says

        I’m really not sure Karen. I think I would just take it out of the fridge, maybe let it breathe for a day or two (i.e. remove the cap from the bottle) and give it a gentle shake every now and then. I really don’t see why putting it in the fridge would’ve ruined it…

  14. says

    A good website for lots of information on how to make “FDA grade” vanilla along with reviews of various kinds of vanilla beans from different countries, is http://www.vanillareview.com. They suggest 1 oz of beans per 8 fl. oz. vodka (alcohol).

    Depending on whether you buy and use Grade A Prime vanilla beans or Grade B Extract vanilla beans, you may need more or less than 8 beans per 8 fl. oz. of vodka. Prime beans tend to be plumper (due to higher moisture content) than Extract grade beans, so you’d need fewer beans. However, Prime beans tend to cost quite a bit more than Extract beans, so you’re actually better off financially to go with Extract grade beans (lower moisture content and not so pretty), because you get just as good as, if not a better, flavor of vanilla from the Extract grade.

    Also, everything that I’ve read says to not refrigerate your vanilla extract. Keep it in a cool dark place, such as a pantry or cupboard, but don’t store it in the refrigerator.

    I’ve got 22 bottles of various sizes and bean origins/varietys brewing currently, some with vodka, some with Everclear, and one with Chivas Regal 12 year old scotch whisky. I’m about to try making some alcohol-free extract using glycerine for my older sister who is a breast cancer survivor and also has celiac’s disease. Her system does not tolerate alcohol well at all.

  15. BARBARA PLANTE says

    Do you know if it is ok to sell Vanilla extract. I have a small farmers market here and the Man would like me to sell it there.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] extract at home? And did you know it takes only two ingredients:  vanilla + vodka! After reading this post, I was definitely going to make my own vanilla.  But then I thought, why use regular vodka when [...]

  2. […] 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract) […]

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