Sunday, January 08, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Random Acts of Consumer Anarchy continue to occur around here, and they show no signs of abating (there are still so many more things I want to learn how to make myself - castile soap, I'm looking at you).  In light of recent events though, maybe I should call this The Occupy Your Shopping List Project.  The point is, after all, to whittle down the shopping list, to participate just a little less in the consumerist machine, to spend less money; to consume less, and to create more.  

To date, the items we have removed from our shopping list include shampoo, baking powder, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, facial cleanser, body lotion, hot pepper sauce (recipe one and recipe two), play dough, glass cleaner, and now vanilla extract.

The vanilla extract is a biggie.  Have you looked carefully at the cost of a good-quality organic pure vanilla extract?  Pricey, I say.  The less expensive brands of vanilla extract, even the ones that claim to be pure vanilla extract, often contain dubious ingredients, and even then, the cost per ounce is relatively high.

And I use A LOT of vanilla extract.  Those tiny little bottles never lasted long around here, so I started looking into ordering an 8-oz bottle online.  {Enter sticker shock}.  Then I looked into making my own, and, well, eureka.

Making your own vanilla extract is really quite simple - just a matter of stuffing some split vanilla beans into a bottle of vodka and then letting it steep for two months.  So, sure, the first batch takes a wee bit of patience, but you can make giant containers worth at a time, or you can make smaller batches, and always keep another batch going in a dark cupboard.

The price savings are intense, and the quality is excellent.  So far, I have used vodka for my extract, since that was what I saw recommended most often in the recipe sites that I consulted for my initial batch, but I am curious about the difference when using bourbon.  Next time, for sure...



When purchased in bulk, you can find organic vanilla beans for around $1/each right now.  A year ago, when I made my first batch, I found organic vanilla beans in bulk for about half that price.  My first batch came in at about $0.50/ounce, and my most recent batch was more expensive, at about $1.00/ounce (still a bargain compared to $2.00/ounce for the commercial organic vanilla extract).

  • 750 ml bottle of vodka
  • 12 vanilla beans
  1. Remove about 1/2 cup of vodka from the bottle.  What you do with it is totally up to you.  I don't want to know.  Unless you make a vodka sauce for pasta, and then I want your recipe.  
  2. Using a sharp knife, split the beans lengthwise along one entire side of the bean (this is to expose the pulp inside).
  3. Stuff the vanilla beans into the bottle of vodka.  Close tightly and shake.
  4. Store the bottle in a dark pantry or cupboard for two months, shaking it weekly.  
  5. After two months, when the liquor has been fully infused, pour some of the extract into a smaller bottle (for ease of use), and stuff one or two of the beans into the smaller bottle as well.  Use as you would commercial extract.  
This post was also featured on Frugally Sustainable and Natural Mothers Network.


Annehueser said...

I use cheap brandy and don't bother splitting the beans, which I also use fewer of. Maybe that's the difference between using brandy and vodka.

Sarah Beam said...

If you do not open the beans though, you will not extract all of the actual vanilla from the bean. The vanilla is inside the pod, so I think you will find a much higher quality extract if you split the beans.

I have read of people using rum for the extract, so it is great to hear that brandy works as well.

Natural Mothers Network said...

Thank you so much for sharing this simple but priceless tip for making homemade vanilla extract. This is such an exciting find!
I host a linky and would love it if you popped over and linked this post! It would be great to introduce your blog to my readership! Seasonal Celebration Linky Thank you :-)

Whitney Bailey said...

I'm guessing you don't, but thought I'd ask. Do you strain the seeds and pulpy pieces of bean out of the vanilla? I've seen recipes that call for straining and those that don't. I'm currently brewing an extra large concoction to give as gifts, and am guessing most recipients would be turned off with the floating bits. But I also don't want to withhold from them any vanilla goodness if the bits make it truly extraordinary.

Sarah Beam said...

Whitney, the vanilla flavor actually comes from the seeds and pulpy pieces of the bean, so I do not strain it. I just shake it before using, and the sediment falls to the bottom of the jar before I spoon out what I need. I would be too afraid of losing the vanilla goodness to ever strain it out.

If the sediment does bother you though, make sure not to strain it out during the two months in which it is steeping. After that, if you wanted to, you could strain it.

Lisa Lynn said...

Great recipe...thanks for sharing on the Seasonal Celebration Linky, where I found this :)

I have been ordering vanilla beans from Frontier Herbs in Iowa. I started my own buying club through their catalog.

Natural Mothers Network said...

I'm so glad you dropped by and I really welcomed this contribution last week to the Seasonal Celebration Linky- a great collection of seasonal recipes, homemaking, crafts, homeschooling and motherhood thank you so much!
Seasonal Celebration is live once more, so feel free to pop over and join this wonderful celebration of creative talent! Rebecca x