I don’t know about you, but I prefer to use real vanilla when it’s called for in a recipe. Did you know it’s not that difficult to make your own vanilla extract? It’s as simple as putting vanilla beans in a bottle, covering them with alcohol and letting it steep for six weeks or so. If you start now, you’ll have a batch ready for holiday baking or gift giving.
Vanilla beans are expensive but not impossible to find. For an extract you don’t need to purchase top quality pods, but again, it will depend on what’s available to you. Try looking on Amazon or eBay if you can’t find them locally. Plan on three to five beans for every cup of alcohol.
As for the alcohol, as with the beans, it doesn’t have to be top shelf stuff, but it should be something you like. Vodka will be neutral while choosing bourbon or rum will add their distinct flavors to the extract. I chose an inexpensive dark rum. I like the caramel flavor for both the extract and for adult drinks.
You’ll need a bottle or jar to steep the extract and another set of bottles for gift giving. Feel free to cut the vanilla beans to size if necessary.
How to make your own vanilla extract
For two cups you will need:
- 6 to 10 vanilla beans
- 20 ounce jar with lid (these pint and a half jars work well)
- 4 ounce jars with lids for gifts
- small funnel for transferring the vanilla
- decorative tags or labels
- 2 cups your choice of alcohol: rum, bourbon or vodka are good choices
- Place the vanilla beans inside the jar. You can cut them to fit. You could also open a couple up using the tip of a knife.
- Pour the alcohol over and seal with a lid.
- Store the vanilla extract in a dark place like your pantry for 6 weeks or so. It will darken in color as it ages.
- For gifts, use a funnel to transfer the extract to decorative bottles and embellish with your choice of labels.
You can use it beforehand the 6 weeks are up but the flavor might not be as intense as you’d like. It’s also possible to maintain a never ending bottle of vanilla extract by adding more alcohol and swapping out the vanilla beans on a regular basis.
Now that you know how easy it is to make your own vanilla extract, are you ready to make your first batch?