Due to popularity, we’ve brought this post back from the archives!
Did you know that there is a difference between imitation vanilla extract found in the grocery store and pure vanilla extract? Imitation vanilla extract is just that: an imitation created by scientists who figured out a way to recreate vanillin (the main flavoring agent in pure vanilla) from wood pulp to mimic the flavor of vanilla. Why go to all that work in creating a fake? The answer is simply because it is cheaper to produce since vanilla beans are a little laborious to grow.
But, vanillin isn’t the only flavor or scent found in pure vanilla—it’s just the strongest. These other weaker components of real vanilla serve to create a softer, more floral scent and flavor. In fact, the flavor varies depending on where the beans were grown.
Wouldn’t you prefer a better tasting vanilla extract? While pure vanilla extract found in grocery stores can be expensive, making it on your own doesn’t have to be—especially if it is made in large batches (Hint: this would make a great neighbor gift during the holidays).
Vanilla extract only requires a few things—vanilla beans, vodka or white rum, glass bottles for storing the extract, and labels. To make this the least expensive way, you will want to consider buying vanilla beans in bulk from an online source like Amazon.com. Also, our 4 oz. glass bottles make great storage containers, and we also offer these cute vinyl vanilla labels that don’t get messed up if you accidentally spill vanilla on them.
When making your own vanilla extract, leave a bean or two in the bottle because, as it sits, the flavor gets richer; and you can always “top it off” with a little more vodka to keep it going.
Because the alcohol needs a little time to extract the flavor from the vanilla beans, it is best to let this sit for 12 weeks before using it. So, if you plan on gifting this for the holidays, you’ll want to get started on this project now.
The recipe given below is to make vanilla extract in bulk. If you only want to make a little bit for your personal use, the rule of thumb to go by is 1 vanilla bean for every 2 oz. of vodka. So if you are making a 4 oz. bottle of vanilla extract, place 2 cut vanilla beans inside the bottle, fill with vodka, and let sit for 12 weeks.
Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract
- Two 1.75 liter bottles of vodka or white rum
- 60 vanilla beans (about 1/2 lb.)
- 4 oz. glass bottles (approximately 35 bottles)
- Cut off the ends of the vanilla beans, and cut each bean lengthwise. Divide them evenly among 4–5 one-quart glass mason jars.
- Pour the vodka or rum into the mason jars, covering the vanilla beans, and close tightly. Shake vigorously.
- Place in a cool, dark place, and shake the bottles about once a week for a few months (about 12 weeks).
- When ready to gift, carefully fill each glass bottle with vanilla extract and secure the lids tightly. Include 1–2 vanilla beans in each bottle (you’ll need to cut each bean in half to fit).
- Add a label to the bottle, and include any instructions and the kind of vanilla. If it still needs to sit longer, include a date for when it can be used.
- If you have beans left over, squeeze out the bean paste, and save it in an airtight container to use in ice creams, sauces, whipped cream, etc. You can also allow the pods to dry out, then grind them into powder using a coffee or spice grinder and mix with sugar or sprinkle on anything you want to add vanilla flavor to.
- To spice up the gift, you can include your favorite recipe that uses vanilla extract and another ingredient in the recipe such as chocolate chips.
- Use these cute vanilla vinyl labels to really add to the charm of this gift!