Of all the DIY projects to try, homemade vanilla extract is among the easiest. It just takes two simple ingredients, but makes a rich, fragrant extract to use in your kitchen or give as a lovely gift.
Plus, your kitchen will smell simply delightful for hours and hours after you make it.
Vanilla beans and alcohol= delicious pure vanilla extract
How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract
There are a whopping two ingredients you’ll need for your homemade extract: vanilla beans and alcohol. Can’t get much simpler than that….you just have to choose what kind of beans and what kind of alcohol.
There are several kinds of vanilla beans, but Bourbon (also known as Madagascar) is the popular scent we’d all instantly recognize as vanilla and the type I bought. Then there’s two grades: A and B. Grade A beans have more oil and are considered better for cooking. However, the grade B beans are generally preferred for making extract.
Vodka, bourbon, tequila…any should work fine (just don’t use inedible rubbing alcohol!) I made one batch with vodka and one with bourbon to experiment. The bourbon lends a fun bourbon-esqe flavor, but if you’re after the true vanilla flavor, vodka is the way to go.
(Whew, how’s that for making a simple recipe a bit more complicated!)
For a strong vanilla extract, use 1/4 pound of beans (approx. 25 beans, but it can vary a lot) to 1 quart of alcohol.
Slice the vanilla beans down the center, leaving them attached at the end if you think it looks pretty.
Place in clean glass jar. Cover completely with alcohol. Screw the lid on tightly and store for one to six months in a cool dark place stirring regularly (daily…or weekly…or whenever you happen to remember.)
Label and date, at least if you tend to forget exactly what and when you bottled as quickly as I do.
Start using when the extract smells vanilla-y enough to you. As you use the vanilla, you can add more alcohol. The vanilla won’t be as strong, but I kept reusing the vanilla beans we were given till they lost most of their potency.
Once they’re satisfactorily extracted don’t throw them away! Turn the beans into vanilla sugar.
[Full disclosure: links to some products in this post are my referral links.]