I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to make my own vanilla extract. It’s surprisingly easy if you can be patient. All it requires is vanilla beans, vodka, and a jar. The reason I mention patience is it can take anywhere from a few months to 18 months depending on your recipe and desired potency.
- 1 1/2 vanilla beans (I am using fresh, grade A, Madagascar beans)
- 2 C (16oz) vodka (or alternate alcohol)
- 1 pint jar (or whatever is handy)
Slice vanilla beans lengthwise to expose the inside where all the flavor comes from. Drop vanilla in the jar and fill with alcohol. Label with the date and store. Gently shake or tip the jar occasionally to redistribute contents (once a day for a week or two, once a week for the rest of the month, then once a month after that). Wait 18 months for full potency and enjoy.
- Use any size jar you have handy, adjusting the recipe by volume of alcohol or vanilla pods
- The extract might be strong enough to use after a few months, but it will be much stronger after 18 months
- You can double or triple the amount of beans for faster results
- After the full 18 months, it is estimated the extract will be 3 times as strong as store bought vanilla extract, so you can use a third of what the recipe calls for
- Open the jar at any time to test it or use some and continue storing for further extraction
- Replace vodka with any alcohol you prefer or experiment with different flavors, such as rum, whisky, or bourbon. Vodka is said to have the most neutral flavor.
- Once you’ve extracted your vanilla, you can remove the pods and scrape them for the vanilla ‘caviar’ (the tiny beans inside the pods) in recipes. I’ve also heard you can blend the whole bean for use in recipes.
- Last note—this is great as a gift, especially around holidays when people like to bake
I made four bottles of extract—2 vodka, 1 rum, and 1 bourbon. I’m very excited to try this for the first time.
Update (March 16, 2023)
It’s been just over 3 months and I’ve been tilting the jars of vanilla regularly. They’ve taken on some color, though they still taste more like alcohol than vanilla extract. This is not surprising based on the recipe I used. The photo below shows the color now.