Homemade Vanilla Extract

I go thru a lot of vanilla extract in this house.  I always double (or triple, or quadruple...) any amount called for in a recipe.  And I only use pure vanilla extract because the imitation shit is flavored from wood by-products and chemicals.  Heinous!  Pure vanilla extract will last forever and it only has two ingredients.

Real vanilla extract can be hella expensive though.  I've seen it go for as much as $20 for 8 ounces.  Instead of becoming a slave to the makers of rich, pure vanilla extract who charge the price of a small car for this liquid gold, I make my own.  It's easier than you think, as long as you have enough patience to wait.  Like 2 months.

I bought a half-pound of extraction grade vanilla beans online at Amadeus Vanilla Beans.  Let me tell you, half a pound of vanilla beans is like a small football sized amount.  Some people say the beans must be soft and fresh but I prefer the drier ones.  They are not pretty, and they are a bit hard, but once they are in the liqueur of your choice, they soften up.  Plus, with a lower moisture content, you get more beans in your half-pound than the same weight of pretty, plump ones.

So what booze to use?  I started with vodka, which is the traditional extract liquid.  It's flavorless so all you taste is the rich vanilla.  I also pulled out the bottle of bourbon we always have in the front of the liqueur cabinet (I mean, it was 10 am - I was parched).  And behind those bottles was a bottle of rum left over from Thanksgiving cocktails.

Why some people use shit liqueur to make extract, I have no idea.  I find the foul, harsh, gasoline flavor in such shit liqueur doesn't go away simply by adding vanilla beans.  That would be like putting whipped cream and a cherry on a steaming pile of puke.  I used Tito's vodka, Maker's Mark bourbon, and Cruzan aged rum.

This photo is vodka extract after 3-1/2 weeks.  I bought this bottle for less than $3 at Walmart (holy schnikes, I hate that store).  It took the two small (pint) jars to fill it.

You'll need glass jars of some sort to store your extract in.  I used several sizes of empty mason jars.

This shows what the jars look like only moments after filling.  The small pint jar in the front has the rum, which is a barely different color than the vodka.  The bourbon one is obvious. After only a day or two you'll start to see the color change.

The large jar and two of the smaller ones have vodka.  Here's a closer look.


Homemade Vanilla Extract

8 oz. liqueur (vodka, rum, bourbon, or brandy; at least 35% by volume)
5 or more vanilla beans (I use a lot, but you'll need at least 5)
glass jars with lids

Take each vanilla bean and with a sharp knife, cut down the bean lengthwise to open and expose the tiny vanilla bean seeds.  Place beans in glass jars and add alcohol.  Put the lids on.  Store in a cool, dark place for 2 months to extract, shaking daily for a week, then whenever you think about it after that.  

As you use your extract, the vanilla beans may become exposed.  Now you have two choices.  You can either top off with more booze, or yank out the beans and stuff them in a jar of sugar to make yummy vanilla sugar.  If you leave them exposed (as I did once) they'll get slimy and funky and ruin your extract.


Susan Minihane said...

Thank you for this recipe. I am a US ex-pat living in Australia and have trouble finding pure vanilla extract at a reasonable price. Bought my vodka and beans and I will try this today. Thanks! Susan www.suzyqdownunder.blogspot.com.au

Erin Patrick said...

Did you have a favorite between the various boozes? I'm giving this a shot for the first time :)

Erin Patrick said...

Did you have a favorite between the 3 different boozes?

Erin Patrick said...

Did you have a favorite between the 3 different boozes?

downtownjeff said...

I tried two different alcohols, Absolut Vodka and Bacardi Rum. I also used Mexican beans for this experiment and placed 1 1/2 beans in each. I found that after six months the vodka had a nice vanilla smell and taste. The Bacardi at the same time, still had the rum smell and only slight taste of vanilla.

After the vodka bottle was all used up , I went back to the rum (total of 9 months steeping) and I was surprised to find it had come around. The flavor is very present in everything I have baked so far, but not over powering.

I'm trying bourbon next, the alcohol not the beans I'll let you know

Shannon Marie said...

Susan, it's hard to find good quality vanilla extract at a resonable price here in the States, too. It's ridiculously overpriced. Let us know how it goes!

Erin, to be honest, I prefer the good 'ole vodka extract. It's the purest, most vanilla-y. The bourbon is delicious, too, but has a more smoky, robust flavor that isn't as versatile as the vodka one. The rum is my least favorite, but again, yummy as hell.

Downtownjeff, I agree - I like the vodka better than rum. I'm curious to see what you think of the bourbon too. Let us know!

Brandy said...

I've read about how to do this before but was always hesitant. Now I think I'm really going to try it! This just might be everyone's Christmas present this year.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to use alcohol. What could I substitute, any suggestions?

Shannon Marie said...

I've never made it without alcohol, so I can't vouch for how it turns out, but you can use food-grade vegetable glycerin in place of vodka. I think you'll probably need to buy it online or possibly at Whole Foods or some such specialty store. Let me know how it goes!

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