There are certain staples that are essential to a well-stocked kitchen – salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar, butter. If you do any kind of baking, vanilla extract certainly falls into the essentials category. Vanilla extract is a wonderful addition to cakes of all flavors, yogurt, smoothies, homemade whipped cream, ice cream bases and, my personal favorite, pancakes.
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Why Make Vanilla Extract When You Can Buy It?
With so many possible uses for this versatile ingredient, I found myself burning through a jar of vanilla extract a little quicker than my budget preferred. And since I am always looking for ways to stretch my pennies, I began to wonder if there was a better way. As it turns out, there is! With two very simple ingredients, I was well on my way to the world of homemade vanilla extract in 5 minutes. That’s right – 5 minutes! And honestly, that includes clean-up 😉
A Gifting Favorite
One of my favorite things to do with my homemade vanilla extract (right after adding it to pancakes, of course) is to give it as a gift. I recently used these amber vessels for this exact purpose. To make gift-giving easy, check out these free, printable labels!
Homemade extract is the perfect holiday gift for neighbors, teachers and co-workers. This would be especially meaningful paired with an adorable tea towel or added to a gift basket of other homemade goodies. This works as a great housewarming gift, too.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
An added bonus for homemade vanilla extract is that the pods can be reused. Yup, they really, truly can be reused! When you have used up all of your precious vanilla goodness, you just add more of your spirit of choice and allow to steep again. Super simple and incredibly economical.
I always have various jars of vanilla steeping at any given time so that when I finish up with one jar, I have another one that I can immediately begin using while the one I just finished off is topped off and stored until it reaches the desired potency.
Think your vanilla bean pods are finished after making extract? Think again! Your beans still have more love to give. After 2-3 rounds of extract, try drying them thoroughly to make vanilla sugar. How’s that for stretching a dollar?
Cut vanilla bean pod lengthwise. I leave each end intact, but this is a matter of preference and not truly necessary. Make sure to scrape any of those lovely vanilla seeds off of your paring knife and into your chosen container. Each one of those tiny, baby seeds is loaded with flavor potential!
I then add the beans to my chosen container or vessel and fill them with the liquor of choice. I secure with lid and keep in a cool, dark area so the alcohol and vanilla beans can merge to a beautiful marriage of aroma and flavor. While in the steeping phase, I also give the container a quick shake about once a week just to give everything a good mix. Wait at least 3 months before using.
Tips and Tricks
- You can use nearly any spirit that fits within your budget or that you have on hand. I have used vodka, gin, whiskey and rum. Rum is my preferred spirit. I find that rum consistently provides the full-bodied flavor that I love in a good vanilla extract.
- No need to purchase top-shelf alcohol for this recipe. Honestly, I generally purchase whatever is cheapest or on sale.
- There are different types of beans to choose from which I found very intimidating at first. I have used both Tahitian beans and Madagascar beans. Both types worked just fine for this recipe, but I do slightly prefer the Madagascar beans. In my experience, they have provided the most consistent and expected flavor. Stick with Grade B beans for extract making. No need to spend the extra money on Grade A.
- Any glass container should do just fine for this recipe. Repurposed jelly jars, spaghetti sauce jars, etc. can all be utilized. Just make sure that whatever vessel you use is thoroughly cleaned and that there aren’t any lingering aromas from whatever was previously in the jar. I love to find ways to repurpose perfectly good jars (as is evidenced by my cabinet full of old jars), but for this application, I prefer using some old EZ-cap beer bottles that I happened upon similar to these.
- You can adjust the recipe up or down as needed. The general rule is to use 2-3 ounces of your chosen spirit per vanilla bean.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 10 Grade B vanilla bean pods
- 750 mL Rum or spirit of choice
- Cut vanilla bean pods lengthwise.
- Add bean pods to container(s) of choice. Be sure to scrape any vanilla beans off of your paring knife into your container. Each one of those tiny, baby seeds is loaded with flavor potential!
- Fill with rum or spirit of choice.
- Secure container with lid.
- Keep in a cool, dark area while mixture steeps, shaking occasionally for best results.
- Extract will be ready for use in 3-6 months.
Would you try your hand at making homemade vanilla extract?
What other homemade extracts would you like to see?
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