Rich, thick, smooth, fragrant, flavorful vanilla extract adds flavor to just about anything baked. For years I purchased the expensive Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Bean Paste from William-Sonoma stores. After reading an article on Wikipedia, I decided to try making my own Madagascar Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Bean Paste. I ordered one pound of Madagascar Vanilla Beans, Grade B, and bought a liter bottle of an inexpenisive vodka.
For a REAL “Eye Opener,” type in vanilla extract and read what the United States Food and Drug Department allows for commercial vanilla extract… I guarantee that you’ll want to make your own and NEVER buy commercially made vanilla extract again! In fact, I’d bookmark this page and read about other food items that you eat and what is allowed by our government.
How to Make Vanilla Extract
Vodka, Madagascar Vanilla Beans, Grade B, Week 1
Vodka, Madagascar Vanilla Beans, Grade B, Week 8
Vanilla Extract Ingredients
vanilla beans of choice, Grade B
liquor of choice, bourbon whiskey or vodka
Ratio for Extract is 6-8 vanilla beans for every cup of vodka or bourbon (80 proof)
All the photos on this page are vodka based, but I just made a bottle with bourbon whiskey and the smell is even better than the vodka. I’ll let you know how it turns out in a few months.
assorted jars that are the height of the vanilla beans: approximately 7 inches tall
Shrink Wrapped Package - One Pound of Madagascar Vanilla Beans, Grade B
assorted jars of choice, wide-mouth & 7-8 inches tall best
Since I had LOTS of vanilla beans leftover, I submerged them in more vodka, labeled the bottle and stored them away... this is like making wine!
Purchase the jar of choice with a wide mouth so you can pull out the vanilla beans for the seeds or plunging a teaspoon or tablespoon into the liquid for a recipe.
The cap should be lined with a smooth coating and have a silicone seal along the inside of the cap to provide a good seal.
I often save designer looking glass jars, remove the labels and sterilize before use.
Madagascar Vanilla Beans, Grade B (left), Near Gourmet Madagascar Vanilla Beans (right)
The Vanilla Beans
Purchase the vanilla beans of your choice. I chose one pound Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Grade B, because the price was excellent and the yield of extract of vanilla seeds from each bean is wonderful! Also the Grade B vanilla beans are drier, so they soak up the alcohol better and give off the dark extract coloring faster!
(The one pound Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Grade B package
contained 125 beans and cost $31 in 2012. This is the most economical size and you can soak all of them or share with a friend. But once you get started creating your own bottles, you'll experiment with different liquors. Besides, you can never have too much vanilla!!)
(Bottle of inexpensive 80-proof bourbon or vodka: $9 - $15)
(Quattro Stagioni 34 ounce jars: $4 each or free if recycling glass jars.)
The ratio of vanilla beans to 80-proof liquor is 6-8 vanilla beans to every cup of liquor. I realize that some cooks recommend 3 or 4, but I like to squeeze the soaked vanilla bean seeds into my frostings, cakes and cookies and I want the extra beans.
I find that the liquor that is 80-Proof and cheap is best for vanilla extract. Again, it's all about taste and we could not tell the difference with more expensive liquors. But this is about taste and experimentation with assorted liquors may provide different tastes and flavors for your palette when creating your vanilla bean extract.
A Wide Mouth Jar Makes It Easy to Pull Out a Vanilla Bean or Dip Out a Teaspoon of the Vanilla Bean Extract
Once you’ve selected your jars, liquors and vanilla beans, it’s time to assemble. Fill the jar with 6 vanilla beans to every cup of liquor and seal the jar. Yes, seal the jar. There really is NO NEED to slit the vanilla beans or snip them into segments.
I replace the emptied vanilla bean back into the jar and never through it away. Since I have so many beans, I add the emptied vanilla beans to my organic sugar container to make vanilla sugar.
When the vanilla extract liquid is half used, I add more of the same liquor used, seal the jar, date it, and let it brew again. Once it reaches that dark black golden color, I am free to start using it again.
Snip and Squeeze Out the Voluputous Vanilla Bean Paste from a Soaked Vanilla Bean
How Cutting the Vanilla Beans May Have Started
(Warning: NOT a Vegan Story) Two women where cooking their Easter Family Dinner and when they opened the ham roast, woman #1 cut the joint end off and threw it away.
Woman #2 asked, “Why are you throwing that part away?”
Woman #1 replied, “My mother always did. And she taught me to do the same!”
Later at dinner, Woman #1 asked, “Mom, why did you teach me to cut off the joint end of the ham and throw it away?”
Mother answered, “That’s what my mother taught me to do!”
Both women then turned to the Grandmother and asked, “WHY?”
Grandmother smiled and answered, “I didn’t have a pan big enough, so I always had to cut the end off to fit it into the pan for the oven! So I taught you to do the same because we always used the same pan.”
All three women started laughing hysterically and decided to buy larger pans for each of their kitchens!
I think this may be why so many cooks cut and slit the vanilla beans! The vanilla beans don’t fit into small jars unless you cut them! But I say, find a taller bottle with a wide mouth that fits the length of the whole bean and then you’ll be able to squeeze every bit of the vanilla seeds out of the liquor hydrated vanilla beans! And always put the squeezed vanilla bean pod back into in the vanilla extract with the cut end down to continue flavoring the bottle’s contents.
Clear Bottles Show the Stages of Vanilla Bean Extract Colors
To Slit or Not to Slit the Vanilla Bean
And for those naysayers, yes, I've made vanilla extract using both methods. I’ve slit one bottle and used whole beans in another and both jars produce the same vanilla extract color in the same amount of time! And if you slit the vanilla beans, you won’t be able to squeeze those gorgeous drunk vanilla seeds into whatever recipe you want to create!!!
Creativity in Gift Giving: Bottles, Ribbons, and Labels Sets Your Gift Apart
The Gift of Vanilla Bean Extract
It’s common knowledge that gift giving is cherished even more when it is HOMEMADE! And vanilla extract is a perfect gift item for gift giving. Natural fibers, gorgeous ribbons and wires, with elaborate labels and assorted bottle types provide a plethora of designer decorated bottles of Homemade Vanilla Extract.
You can even give the bottles before they have finished curing with a note included about how you created the vanilla extract, how long to wait before using, and what to do once the liquid diminishes to the half-way mark.
Such a lovely personalized gift!
(The bottle on the right is filled with inexpensive vodka and 6 Madagascar Grade B Vanilla Beans. This is the color after 5 days... imagine the darker color in a month!)