Vanilla extract. A popular yet expensive ingredient, especially when you buy it from the store. I use a lot of vanilla extract for baking. Some of my favorite recipes are Custard-Style Vanilla Ice Cream and Refined-Sugar Free Vanilla Buttercream, amongst other things. There are many reasons why I choose to make my own extract.
First and foremost, store-bought vanilla extract contains corn syrup. Yes, really! Even “pure” extracts can sometimes have corn syrup and other additives. The good, organic vanilla doesn’t, but…good vanilla is expensive!
Additionally, I like to have the ability to customize my vanilla extract. Most store-bought vanilla is made with vodka and Tahitian vanilla beans. But there are lots of other varieties out there, especially when you make it yourself. Bourbon vanilla is popular among bakers. You can mix and match different types of beans and different types of alcohol to create your own signature vanilla!
Not to mention, making vanilla extract is simple!
I bought an 8-oz. package of good vanilla beans (I chose bourbon vanilla the first time but discovered I prefer Tahitian). This was around 50 beans, so it was a great deal! If you buy at a health food store, expect to pay $2 – $4 per bean (possibly more with inflation). Since they’re not grown locally anyway, it doesn’t matter that much where you buy from. I got mine from Amazon. Vanilla prices are slightly higher now than when I first wrote this (around $35 – $40 for 8 oz) but still pretty affordable compared to premade vanilla extract.
Try different types of vanilla beans to see what you prefer. There are multiple varieties, and they don’t all taste the same.
You also need some type of alcohol. It needs to be 80 – 90 proof. Vodka is the “usual” choice; bourbon is also common, and you could choose rum or other types too. A reader on Facebook told me that he used rum because it’s sweeter. I found that I most enjoy Tahitian beans with rum, but you may have a different preference.
- 4 oz. alcohol
- 4 – 5 vanilla beans
- Mason jar
- 4-oz. dark brown glass bottle with cap
- Cutting board
Legally, an “extract” must be made with .8 oz. of vanilla beans per cup. This works out to about 8 beans, or one bean per ounce of alcohol. I use slightly more, usually 5 vanilla beans for 4 oz. of alcohol. If you use less, it will still taste nice, but it will officially be a “vanilla liqueur” instead of a true extract. Many chefs use a “double extract,” which uses twice as many beans!
Brown glass is also important to protect your extract from light. I start mine in a mason jar and transfer it to dark glass after straining.
Step 1: Slice your vanilla beans down the middle. This isn’t a requirement, but you’ll get the nice caviar from the center in your extract if you do — more flavor!
Step 2: If your jar is small, cut your beans in half so they fit (make them shorter).
Step 3: Add your beans to your bottles or mason jar.
Step 4: Once all your beans have been added, fill the jar with your alcohol of choice.
Anyway, once your bottles are filled with alcohol, screw on the caps. You are done!
The vanilla must sit for at least one month, preferably six, to be “done.” Set the bottles in a dark place, remove them, and shake them at least once a week (or whenever you think about it). Your beans will soften, and all that nice caviar will come out into your extract as you shake it.
That’s it! In a month (or so), you’ll have yummy, homemade vanilla extract, which you can use yourself or give as gifts!
Watch this video on how to make vanilla extract:
Have you ever considered making vanilla extract before?