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Easy Vanilla Extract - Make it Yourself!

Updated on June 22, 2012
Vanilla Extract
Vanilla Extract | Source

First Look

Pure Vanilla Extract is a kitchen essential that can put a real dent in your baking budget. With a little time, you can make your own never ending supply easily, saving you money while amazing your friends. You only need some real whole vanilla beans, a separate resealable bottle (or canning jar), and some vodka. It really is that simple.

Materials Needed

  • Dried Vanilla Beans - you can buy these at your local health food store, farmer's market, or on Amazon and eBay. Madagascar beans are one of the most common, but any grade "B" or better bean will work.
  • Vodka - Any brand that is at least 35% alcohol will do. For the frugal minded, if you are able to purchase vodka at a Costco, their Kirkland Brand works great.
  • Resealable Glass Bottle / Jar - Optimally, the glass you store your extract in will be a dark color to protect it from direct sun exposure. You can use old wine bottles, canning jars, even beer bottles as long as they are able to be tightly sealed.
  • Sharp Knife / Cutting Board - A sharp knife is important so you can easily cut the beans apart allowing the extraction to take place.
  • Funnel - you will need this to fill your container with vodka
  • Cheesecloth, Coffee Filter or Strainer - once the extraction process is complete, you will have to separate the particles out.

Make the Magic Happen

To get a good strong flavor from your extract, you should use 1 oz. of beans (~8 beans) per 1 cup of vodka. (30 grams beans / 250 ml alcohol). You can use fewer beans if you can wait longer for the extraction process or if you do not want the extract as strong.

  1. Sterilize all containers and surfaces you will expose the vanilla beans to. Boil your containers in water for 7-10 minutes to ensure all bacteria are dead.
  2. Cut your vanilla beans in half lengthwise. This will expose the center of the bean. Scrape out the inside (also known as caviar) using the back of your knife and set it in a pile next to your bean skins.
  3. Cut the bean skins into 1/2 - 1 inch pieces. This makes it easier for the vodka to completely cover your beans.
  4. Place the bean skins and caviar into your sterilized container.
  5. Fill your container with vodka, leaving a small space at the top. Make sure all of your bean skins and vanilla caviar are completely covered.
  6. Seal your container completely, and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds.
  7. Store your extract in a cool dark place for at least 8 weeks. Shake your extract once a day for the first week. Shake once every other day during weeks 2-8. Shake once a week for continued use.
  8. Strain your extract into your easy to use bottles using your cheesecloth, coffee filter, or strainer. If you do not have container for regular use, you can find one or more here or on Amazon.

You can continue to store your vanilla extract for up to 6 months allowing it to become stronger. After this period of time - it is a good idea to strain out and replace the vanilla bean skins to ensure continued quality. When you pour some of the extract out, simply replace it with more vodka. Always make sure your beans remain covered with vodka.

Now you can re-use the vanilla skins to make Vanilla Sugar!

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