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Making your own homemade vanilla extract is much easier than you might think. Once you taste it, you’re not going to want to go back. I love making my own seasonings and flavorings!
Ingredients in imitation vanilla can be harmful to your health. One of them is made from the by-products of wood production. No thanks. You can read about it here. I also have an aldehyde allergy, so imitation vanilla causes a reaction in me.
Real vanilla extract costs an arm and a leg, so a few years ago, I started making my own after my Mom made me some for Christmas. It’s super easy and fun to do. All extracts are made by steeping ingredients in alcohol until the alcohol takes on the flavor and scent of the ingredient.
Grade B vanilla beans bulk
To make vanilla extract, begin with vanilla beans. You can buy them in bulk online or get them from your grocery store. Obviously bulk is less expensive, and I’m into that! I use Madagascar beans to make my vanilla. I buy grade b vanilla beans. They don’t need to be pretty or perfect to make great homemade vanilla.
Next, you need alcohol. Vodka and brandy work well. I use brandy because I think it makes better vanilla. It takes about a cup of brandy and 6 vanilla beans to make a batch. I buy everything in bulk and make around 24 bottles of vanilla at once. My bottles are 8 oz, but 4 oz and 2 oz bottles of vanilla are a wonderful gift as well. Most vanilla bottles at the grocery store are 2 oz.
I occasionally use homemade vanilla extract for gifts, but I bake a lot and use a lot of vanilla, so I use many of them myself. The last time I went to buy the brandy, the cashier asked me if I was having a big party, or just stocking up. I don’t drink any kind of alcohol and I find it hard to understand how anyone likes it, so I got a good chuckle out of that.
You need some glass jars in which to make your vanilla. Mason jars, jelly jars, or whatever you have on hand is fine. I bought some jars with corks several years ago and I just reuse them for each batch. I bought some shrink wrap seals to put on them when I give them as gifts and they look wonderful.
How to make vanilla extract
Slice each one of your beans down the center starting almost at the top and running down through the end of the bean. I leave the top attached because I think the whole bean looks lovely in the jars.
Next, work the beans down into the jars one at a time until they are all resting on the bottom of the jar. Then fill your jar with alcohol to cover the beans. Once the jar is filled, place the lid or cork on the jar and store in a cool, dry place.
Every couple of weeks you can take your jars and turn them over to make sure all areas of the vanilla bean are getting steeped and then place them back in your storage area. It takes about 6 months for the vanilla to permeate the alcohol and turn into vanilla.
If you want to give vanilla as Christmas gifts, make it in the summer, and you’ll be ready to go. One less thing to get done in December.
How long does homemade vanilla extract last?
Homemade vanilla extract can last up to a year in a cool dark cabinet. Super easy peasy, that’s it! Try to make some vanilla and you’ll be hooked. It tastes so much better than store-bought and you know exactly what goes into it. For more extract ideas, check out lemon extract, mint extract and even chocolate extract, yum!
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 1 c brandy
- 6 vanilla beans
- Cut beans almost in half lengthwise
- Place 6 cut beans in a jar
- Add 1 cup brandy
- Steep for at least 3 months, 6 is better
For some recipes to use your homemade vanilla, check out: