Home-Made Vanilla

I may be a novice baker, but my daughter and I are experienced at making one of baking’s most common ingredients – Vanilla Extract. We begin with really good Vanilla beans, which we split and scrape. Then we let them sit for months in vodka, giving the jug an occasional shake. I always use Vanilla Vodka, but I doubt that’s necessary. I’m not sure our Vanilla Extract is better than good store-bought Vanilla Extract, but around this time of year, Harriet makes special labels for her teachers and bottles the extract. It does make a nice little home-made gift.

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8 responses to “Home-Made Vanilla

  1. Really? You just soak vanilla beans in vodka? That’s it?

  2. Elizabeth Edwardsen

    Really. Who knew? Well, split the beans nearly in half (so they are kind of tweezer-shaped). We usually scrape the seeds a bit. Then put the pods in a glass jar with the vodka. I hear you can use bourbon for this, too. But since vodka is clear I’ve always taken that route since I can tell how strong the extract is by the color. Submerge the beans, tuck the jar in a cabinet, give it a shake every day or so and wait a good 2 or 3 months. Even after a few days you’ll be amazed how dark and fragrant the vodka is. We always put it in a nice little bottle with a label and ribbon and a half length of vanilla bean tucked inside and tell the recipient that it will just get stronger the longer they leave it. We typically astonish the recipients, and it’s So Easy. Honestly, it’s such a good teacher present. I haven’t left you time for this year, but remember it for next year. Plus whenever we go to someone’s house and I don’t want to arrive empty-handed, we always have a gallon of good Vanilla Extract to dip into. Plan ahead and order some good Vanilla Beans. The first year I had to buy them at Whole Foods and this project nearly bankrupted me.

  3. You so inspired me that I now have a 2-quart glass jar filled with bourbon and a handful of fantastic-smelling vanilla beans sitting at the back of my pantry marinating for the winter.

  4. Marty,
    Ahhh, I bet the bourbon variety will be great. Now you’ll have to come up with a bunch of things to BAKE to put that Vanilla Extract to good use!

  5. So where’s a good place to order vanilla beans? How many do you use per bottle of vodka?

  6. Amy,
    I was lucky enough this year to discover a local Italian grocer that sells really nice beans at a good price. But if you Google organic vanilla beans you’ll see a bunch of sellers. The Organic Vanilla Bean Company had good prices, although I didn’t check shipping AND they were out of the kind I clicked on. (Short, Madagascar)
    As with toilet paper, Diet Coke and other necessities, the more you buy, the cheaper they come.
    I put 9 beans in about a quart of vodka. That’s 3 more beans than some recipes I’ve seen, but I’m of the more the merrier school.
    Oh, and the extract may contain seeds and other bits of vanilla detritus by the time you’re ready to decant. I usually pour it through a tea strainer.

  7. I am so doing this for Christmas next year! Thanks! I assume it helps if you choose a decent brand of vodka. 😉

  8. Elizabeth Edwardsen

    Amy,
    I read somewhere not to use the cheapest vodka out there. But I’ve also seen recipes that call for grain alcohol, which, if it’s anything like I remember from my college days in Maryland, is cheap and gut-rotting. And, I think, too powerful for a poor vanilla bean. I use Stoli Vanilla. Absolut also makes a Vanilla, I think. These are probably completely unnecessary. I’ll post a picture when Harriet gets the extract bottled and labeled. They look really nice.

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