How to make homemade vanilla extract

My next door neighbor and I have been busy making some yummy vanilla extract.  We are making some with both tahitian and madagascar beans and with rum and vodka.  Each kind gives a different flavor.  There are many other types of vanilla beans to choose from besides these two!  I took some pictures today while I was making another batch and wanted to share to make your own!  It couldn’t be any easier and this would make the most perfect holiday gift!  In fact, see this blog post for some printable labels to put on your bottles when you give them out! 🙂

So, here is the tutorial!

Materials needed:

  • Alcohol.  It needs to be at least 40 proof.  Also, only food grade alcohol!  No rubbing alcohol or something else not meant for human consumption.  Vodka is a popular choice since it is mostly tasteless and won’t impart any flavor into the vanilla.  Rum is also a popular choice.  If you go with rum, get clear rum as opposed to dark rum.  Make sure your bottles are glass bottles.
  • Vanilla beans.  I got mine from this shop on Ebay. Get the grade B extract ones.  You don’t need grade A unless you are using them for presentation and need them to look perfect 🙂  You need 10 beans per 5th of alcohol.  Buy some extras so that if you are gifting some you can put a bean in each individual jar so the vanilla keeps getting better with age!  Store your extra beans in triple bagged ziploc baggies in a dark cool cupboard.
  • Sharp knife or kitchen shears
  • Cutting board.  Make sure to not use one that is smelly with onions or anything, that will transfer to your vanilla!  Yuck!
  • Paper bag big enough to store your alcohol bottle in.  Vanilla needs to keep out of light to make it really yummy!

1.  Get all your supplies out and ready to go.  My bottle is 1.75 L so I am using at least 20 beans.

2.  Starting about 1 inch from the stem of the bean split right down the middle all the way to the end.  Make sure it cuts both layers.

3.  Vanilla bean cut and pulled apart to expose the caviar (seeds) inside.

4.  If you have a stopped in your bottle, remove it and keep it.  You can put it back on once the beans are all inside the bottle.  Then when you pour out the extract the beans will stay put! 🙂

5.  Put the beans into the bottle one at a time.

6.  Vanilla beans getting all cozy in their new home 🙂

7.  All the vanilla beans are in.  Put the stopper back onto the bottle, put the lid on and shake like crazy 🙂

8.  Shake every day (or whenever you remember to) for 8 weeks.  Store your bottle in a paper bag and put into a cool dark place.  After 8 weeks the extract will be complete and you can start baking with it!  Get an extra bottle of alcohol and top off when the beans start getting exposed to air.  You can swap out the beans after a few months if you wish for an even stronger extract!  The old beans can be re-used to make vanilla sugar!  Just rinse them off and put into a container of sugar for a few weeks 🙂

For cute gift bottle look here. You can also use old wine bottles for storage or gift giving!  The darker the glass the better! 🙂  Enjoy your yummy, cheap new vanilla!

9 Responses to “How to make homemade vanilla extract”

  1. 1 Lindsey@Kindred Spirit Mommy October 8, 2010 at 12:25 am

    This is SO cool! I didn’t even know you could make your own vanilla, but am definitely interested. Especially since everything “cheap” out there is “imitation” vanilla. What does that mean? I usually get pure vanilla from Costco, but go through it fast – and especially around the holiday season!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • 2 sewshesews October 8, 2010 at 12:36 am

      You are so welcome! I am not sure what imitation even means! For the same amount as the one from Costco you can make almost 2 liters!

  2. 3 Sew Katie Did October 9, 2010 at 3:29 am

    Oh I have loads of vanilla beans and only ever use them for waffles. This is great. Thanks!

    • 4 sewshesews October 9, 2010 at 12:45 pm

      And after you use them for waffles you can throw the empty pods into the alcohol and it will still make it stronger! 🙂

  3. 5 Brooke October 13, 2010 at 2:13 am

    When you say that you need to have glass bottles, are you referring to the bottle of vodka/rum, or the bottles that you gift the vanilla extract in? I bought a plastic bottle and then read this so now I’m wondering if I should exchange it for a glass bottle. Thanks.

    • 6 sewshesews October 13, 2010 at 4:03 pm

      Glass bottles are best for long term storage. This way there is no chance of getting an “off” taste from something leaching from the plastic. I buy the biggest bottle of vodka or rum and those come in glass. I bought little glass bottles to gift them in too, plastic would work since they would be using it up more quickly. Hope that helps! 🙂

  4. 7 Machen und Tun October 25, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    i started my very first batch back in September and just love how it is smelling even yet!
    loving projects like these!!

  1. 1 The Holidays are a comin’ « Sew She Sews's Trackback on November 19, 2010 at 2:11 pm

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