Raise your hand and be honest. How often do you measure vanilla while adding it to recipes? Yeah, same. Literally never. A big splash here, a smaller splash there, and before you know it — poof! All gone.
The answer is simple. A little on the pricey side, but making your own extract and keeping plain vodka on hand (what, like it’s hard?) means you’ll never run out of the good stuff.
Homemade vanilla extract: the gift that keeps on giving.
I first made my own extract about 5 years ago. It was right after my oldest, Ethan, was born. I had a small circle of mom friends who were suffering through the beginning stages of motherhood alongside me (it’s true, misery loves company), and I wanted to give them a little something for the holiday. In retrospect, handing new moms a bottle of vanilla extract and suggesting that they go home and bake was likely not the most… sensitive gesture.
Fast forward 5 years and I’m at it again, this time gifting them to friends, family, and my kids’ teachers. This extract is legit. It’s made with high quality vanilla beans (use whichever type you can get your hands on — Madagascar Bourbon, Tahitian, Mexican — all good) and comes together in minutes. You know, if you don’t take into account the two month steeping process.
Slice vanilla beans in half lengthwise, leaving an inch or so intact. Three or four halves are then placed into each bottle and topped off with vodka.
Cute labels optional, but highly recommended.
The bags, however, I could take or leave.
Store bottles in a cool place for at least two months before using, shaking at least once or twice. Choose your recipients wisely, these are little gems!
Where to buy?
Vanilla, bulk (though depending on the market and time of year, not all types of vanilla beans are available): Vanilla Saffron Imports, Vanilla Queen, Spice Jungle, even Amazon!
Bottles: Specialty Bottle (4 oz)
Labels: Evermine (mine were tall rectangles sized at 1.875″ x 2.75″)
Homemade vanilla extract
- Vanilla beans (2 per bottle)
- Vodka (a lot)
- Small bottles with screw caps
- Small funnel
- Begin by sterilizing all bottles and caps. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, carefully place bottles and caps in and boil for 30 minutes. Remove and let dry.
- Cut each vanilla bean in half so they'll fit into the small containers. Next, slice the beans in half lengthwise, leaving an inch connected at the end.
- For the small containers that I use (link below), I add 3 or 4 vanilla bean HALVES in each bottle. Place funnel in and top with plain vodka, ensuring that the beans are completely submerged. Screw on tops and give each bottle a quick shake.
- Store in a cool, not-too-hot location, shaking from time to time. The extract is useable after one month, but I let it sit a full two months before gifting it to friends.
- When the bottle is only ½ to ⅓ full, top it off with more vodka, give it a little shake, then rest easy knowing it'll be ready to go the next time you need it. Never buy vanilla extract again!