I’m making a batch of homemade Vanilla Extract and it is the perfect time for you to try it too! I missed doing this late summer, early fall – which is the perfect time to make some for Christmas gifts. It was on my list but it just never happened. So here I am getting it done in January but I think I prefer this timing even more.
Homemade Vanilla Extract is super easy to make and delicous to bake with. When I buy vanilla extract I always pay a few extra dollars for REAL Vanilla Extract. It smells better, taste better and only has two natural ingredients in it. Imitation Vanilla Extract has a list of stuff in it including corn syrup and caramel coloring. Real Vanilla Extract is certainly more expensive, double the price, if not triple for some brands. A cheaper alternative is to make your own. It is not only cheaper but will give you bulk volume and makes for great gifts. You can pair it with some cookie cutters and a tea towel and you have an adorable gift.
To get started, gather your supplies. You will need whole vanilla beans, your alcohol of choice, and small bottles if you choose to divide your extract up – possibly for gifting. You can use almost any alcohol you choose for vanilla extract. Most people use Vodka because of it’s neutral flavor. I have tried both Vodka and Rum and I personally prefer the Rum. In addition to Vodka and Rum, I have read people use Bourbon or even Brandy, which I think would give your Vanilla Extract a unique flavor. It’s suggested that you use a 70 proof/ 35% alcohol to 80 proof/40% alcohol – no need to spring for top choice 🙂
Vanilla Beans are available in the the spice section your grocery store. They are usually sold in packs of one or two beans. The last time I checked my local grocery store for them (well over a year ago) they were $14 for 2 beans. You can find them cheaper online though. I have ordered them from Amazon before. Vanilla Beans come in grades. Grade A is what is used for cooking. Grade B works just fine for making Vanilla Extract. I lucked out this past summer at my local Lidl’s (You need to check them out if you have not yet!!!) when I discovered they had single vanilla beans (in glass vials) for $3 a bean!! I bought six of them for homemade Vanilla 🙂
So, how many beans and how much alcohol do you need??? I’ve read several different suggested ratios of alcohol to vanilla bean for Homemade Vanilla Extract. I use about a cup of alcohol for every 3 beans (a combination of a few suggested ratios). My bottle of Rum was 375 ML (1.5 cup) so I used 4 and 1/2 beans. I saved the extra vanilla bean half in the nice glass vial it came in and will keep it for future use.
To prepare your beans to steep, cut them first in half and then lengthwise. Inside the beans you will find dark fine grit which is actually the seeds of the bean pod. The seeds are the tiny black specs you see in Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 🙂 You are going to add the split beans, gritty seeds and all, to your alcohol.
You can steep your beans in the bottle your alcohol comes in and then divide the extract into smaller bottles when it has reached its desired flavor OR you can divide your alcohol and beans up in the smaller bottles and then let them steep. Your vanilla will need to steep at least 2 months before you can use it. The longer you wait, the more flavor it has though. In the past I have divided my beans and alcohol up before steeping the beans. This time I decided to add the beans to my alcohol in the clear glass bottle it came it so I can monitor the color.
Again, you can use the extract after waiting 2 months but the extract will continue to darken for much longer than that. I plan to monitor my extract in the clear bottle until the dark amber color I desire is reached. I gave the bottle a shake right after adding the beans and you can already see the rum taking on a darker hue.
Once I am done with the steeping process, I will divide my extract amongst my smaller bottles. I got these cute 4 ounce brown glass bottles on Amazon – attach a cute label to them and you have the perfect bottle of vanilla to add to any gift.
So even though I did not get homemade Vanilla Extract made in time for christmas this past year, the batch I just made can now steep until next christmas! Imagine the robust flavor and color it will have come December.