Make homemade vanilla extract for your cooking and baking needs. You will be amazed at the difference it makes in your culinary adventures!
This bottle is about two weeks after assembly. Already starting to get a great color! Recommend to let sit 8-12 weeks for best flavor.
A few years ago, Tammy gave me the best Christmas present ever – homemade vanilla extract. The thought had never crossed my mind to have homemade extract before. It seemed like a fun little gift, and I loved the bottle. That was that.
But it wasn’t just that. It was a permanent change in the vanilla extract stock in my pantry. Don’t get me wrong, I still have me a big ole’ bottle of go-to McCormick that I have stashed away – but mostly that’s in case I run out of this homemade stuff! It’s just phenomenal.
The concept is simple: vanilla beans, vodka. Combine and wait….and wait…..and wait…..yes, it does take awhile. Approximately 8-12 weeks for it to reach full flavor. That’s why we are posting this right now – because if you want to gift for Christmas, you should probably go ahead and make this….like now.
The fantastic trick, is that after the 8-12 week mark, the flavor just seems to get better and better with time.
The not so great part, is that I use it up so fast, that I am always anxiously awaiting my next batch. So I highly recommend to make two or three bottles so you always have at least one that’s ready to use stashed away. That way you will never have to revert to store-bought vanilla ever again!
If you want to make a beautiful bigger bottle like we have pictured, I highly recommend these Bermioli Rocco bottles from Amazon. They are such a fun shape, and you are bound to fall in love with the cork topper. It feels so rustic! They are not the cheapest though – about $4 a pop.
For smaller bottles at a better price (maybe better for more of the bulk gift giving variety), we used Vestil 4 ounce bottles so that we weren’t spending so much on the jars and share the love amongst more family and friends. Vestil also has other sizes, so you can look around and find the best one to suit what you are doing.
Now a little useful info about the beans…..Not all vanilla beans are created equally. In fact, there are different grades. And that does have an effect on the outcome of your extract. We recommend Grade A or Grade B beans for vanilla extract.
Grades are based on three things: length, appearance, and moisture content. Grade A (also called Gourmet or Prime), you will notice, are longer, fuller, softer (very flexible) and without blemish. They are 30-35% moisture content. You can definitely use them in extracts! They also work great for other food that calls for use of a vanilla bean, both because it is easier to scrape out the seeds, and the visual appeal is fantastic. In fact, for anything where you are using a vanilla bean in the cooking/baking, ALWAYS USE GRADE A. Catch is – they are more expensive. (Well, duh, right?)
Grade B are smaller and drier – you will notice a huge difference in pliability. They are 15-25% moisture content. I would never recommend them for anything you are cooking or baking that calls for vanilla beans, but for extracts, they can and do work wonderfully! You will want to increase the ratio of bean to vodka for the extract since they tend to be smaller, but you will still come out ahead cost-wise. (source for grading information: Wikipedia)
Next beany point: There are different regions that you can get beans from. The majority of the world’s vanilla is from the Madagascar bean (known as Madagascar or Bourbon Vanilla). When you think of that distinctive vanilla flavor, think Madagascar.
There’s also Mexican Vanilla, Tahitian Vanilla, and West Indian Vanilla, amongst others. You may have heard of them, but they are much less common. I’ve tried Mexican vanilla (although it’s been awhile), and I have yet to try these other varieties, although I am bound to do some experimenting soon!
Now for the vodka – ok, first a disclaimer. I don’t profess to be an expert on anything alcohol-related. I use it in my cooking and baking, but I don’t drink. I’m still very much figuring things out here, so, if I’m totally off target, feel free to correct. From my experience, in some dishes the quality of the liquor matters tremendously as it actually adds a lot of flavor and compliments the other ingredients. We have not found that to be the case in this vanilla extract. You are trying to make the bean shine, and the main purpose of the vodka is to diffuse the vanilla flavor. Use a dry vodka (unsweetened and unflavored), and don’t spend the extra dollars for that top shelf brand. Just an FYI, you can use other types of alcohol to make this extract, although we haven’t really experimented around with that.
I hope that you try this extract. Whether for you or for gifts, you will fall in love with it! It may just change your life 😉
This is a list of our favorite stuff that we buy to make this vanilla extract:
- Grade A Madagascar Vanilla Beans
- Grade B Madagascar Vanilla Beans
- Bermioli 8 and 1/2 Ounce Glass Bottles
- Vestil 4 Ounce Glass Bottles
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- ounce One 4- glass bottle with lid
- 2 vanilla beans Madagascar, Grade B
- 3-4 ounces vodka
Cut the vanilla beans in half so they will fit in the bottle. If desired, split the beans down the middle with a sharp knife. (You can do this to create more of a speckled look in your extract, although we have never noticed a significant difference in the outcome of flavor by splitting the beans).
Add beans to bottle.
Add vodka until full.
Cap bottle and store in a cool, dark place for 8-12 weeks for full flavor to develop.
Change it Up:
If using Grade A Vanilla Beans, use 1 and 1/2 beans for a 4 ounce bottle.
For an 8-ounce bottle of extract, simply double the amount of beans and vodka. You do not need to cut the beans in half, since they should fit the full length.
Get the most out of your beans! You can use your vanilla beans more than once! When you finish your bottle, simply pour in more vodka to top off, maybe add one more fresh bean, and wait another 8-12 weeks. Voila! Alternatively, take the beans (now much more soft and moist, even the Grade B), and use them (seeds and all) in a cooking or baking adventure!
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