Go make it: Vanilla Extract

Back in the very very beginning of my time of writing posts here, I made vanilla extract.  It was a wonderful experience.  No, I’m not weird for thinking that.  The reason it was so wonderful was because it was SO easy.  I love replacing things that I buy at the store with homemade versions, but even more than that, I love it when they are EASY projects.  I do have to warn you that you will probably never buy it again if you make it.  That’s probably exciting for some of you, but there are others of you who will be doubtful of it.  If you were a vanilla snob already and are used to forking over $19 for the big Nielsen-Massey vanilla bottle (although my mom has given some to me in the past that she found cheap somewhere…thanks, mom).  If that is you, this will definitely save you some big bucks.  If you typically buy the grocery store brand of vanilla that is “imitation” and usually doesn’t contain alcohol, this will not save you money.  You should still make it, though, since that imitation stuff is pretty yucky.

The only ingredients are:

Vanilla Beans (2 for every 1/4 c. vodka) & vodka

I followed this site again in their recommended ratio of beans to vodka.



I got these perfect size little bottles at The Container Store last year and they would be perfect if you can find them.  I went this year (during the annual awesome wrapping paper extravaganza) and they didn’t have any.  UGH!!  I search all over online and nobody ships this size.  The will ship one that is 10X as big, but not this teeny tiny one.  So weird.  This year I decided to try the cheaper beans from Trader Joe’s which are $4 for 2.  Trust me, that’s a deal compared to $14 from McCormick’s at the grocery store or $8.50 for the Nielsen-Massey.


Before you start, sterilize the jars in boiling water for 8 minutes.  Erica is doing an awesome job showcasing this :).

 1. First scrape the beans.  If you slice the bean down the middle without going through the bottom layer, you can peel it open and get a good, clean scrape.

2. After a the seeds (called caviar…love that!) are removed, cut the beans in about 1 inch pieces.  They will not float to the top if they are smaller pieces.

3. Measure your liquid space in the jar by using water first.  Once you know how much liquid you need, you will know how many beans to use.  For example, I used a cup of vodka in my jars, so I placed 8 beans inside.

4. At first the bottles will just look murky, but as you shake them every day, the fluid will get darker.  For the first few days, shake them a few times a day.  After that, shake them once a day for 2 weeks.  Then, you can shake them only when you think of it.

After 6 months, you can strain the extract.  I’ve kept mine in for a year, but I’ve heard the beans go bad after a while.  You can also put new beans back in the bottles if you like.

I am aching to make something I tried today at WhiskandLadle.  We went to the Scripps La Jolla Aquarium and then over to WhiskandLadle for brunch.  To start, I had a piece of butterscotch banana bread with dulce de leche.  Yes, it was as good as it sounds and was a perfect comfort food since I wasn’t feeling really great.  I really want to make it and this vanilla extract will be perfect in both the banana bread and the dulce de leche.

Now, for some vanilla extract labels…

1 comment to Go make it: Vanilla Extract

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