Did you know that vanilla extract only has two ingredients? You heard right, two parts, vodka, and vanilla beans.
My sister in law told me how to make the recipe years ago, and I couldn’t believe how easy it was.
There I was traipsing into the liquor store trying to find an 8 oz. glass bottle of vodka. The salesclerk immediately saw I was not in my element or a usual customer, and politely asked if I needed any help. I must have had the OMG look on my face-scanning all of the shelves.
“Yes,” I responded. “I’m looking for a smaller bottle of vodka, preferably in glass that is at least 80 proof.”
“Oh, I bet you’re having a party.”
“Um, actually, I just want to make some vanilla.” The young clerk stared at me and didn’t speak for a moment.
“What do you mean vanilla?”
“You know, vanilla extract like you use to bake with?”
“I didn’t know you used vodka.”
I proceeded to explain how you make it, and the clerk seemed extremely excited.
“I’m going to try it!”
“You should, oh, and it’s great to give away as a gift for the holidays.”
Her mouth dropped open, and I’m not sure if it was the fact she gets a discount, so she was thrilled with the idea of a cheap gift or the fact she could give lots of alcohol away. I never did ask. As I like to think the best of people, I’m sure she was thinking about what a unique and brilliant idea:).
We visited a little more, but to finish my story, with her help, I ended up finding what I wanted — a 375 ml glass bottle of Absolut Vodka 80 proof.
To be honest, you don’t need to buy expensive vodka as the vanilla bean is what gives the exact flavor. Speaking of taste, avoid flavored vodka.
Extracts are made with alcohol because it’s the best way to exact flavors out of food.
Why make Vanilla Exact at home?
Well, for the same reasons we make everything else at home;
- To keep synthetics, artificial flavors, and colorings out of your food.
- The taste is unbeatable when you use pure ingredients.
- And last, your cost goes way down as you can reuse your vanilla beans.
What is the ratio of beans to vodka?
A great question. The ratio all depends on your taste and what you’re using the vanilla in. If you plan to use it in a lot of desserts, then I would opt for a stronger flavor; 5-6 vanilla beans per 8 oz. of vodka. For everyday baking at home, I think the flavor of 2-4 beans per 8 oz. of vodka is perfect. Again, it all depends on your taste.
What is the best type of vanilla bean?
- Madagascar – rich and creamy.
- Indonesian – well balanced and mild.
- Indian – full, chocolate
How long do I brew the mixture before using it?
You can leave your bottle with your beans sitting for as little as 12 weeks; this is the minimum time I would allow. Although, to enhance your flavor or darken your extract, leave for six months or up to a year.
Think of it like a fine wine that will only get better with age.
Recipe For Homemade Vanilla Extract
This recipe is straightforward.
- Take your preferred bottle of vodka and open the lid.
- Next, you can pour the contents into a pretty jar using a funnel and then label it, or use the vodka jar and mark the date on the lid with a marker.
- Take your desired number of vanilla beans and slice them down one side.
- Place them in your jar.
- Store in a dark, cool location until they have brewed to your desired amount of time. The flavor will improve with time.
A Special Note: Brew several batches at one time, so you never run out. If you’re planning on giving the extract away as a gift, start early or let the person know their present needs to brew for a few months.
You are now a vanilla expert! Other than experimenting with different types of vanilla beans, there isn’t anything else to it.
Enjoy, and let me know how your extract turns out for you.