I honestly never thought I would make my own vanilla extract. Then I moved to Luxembourg and found it extremely difficult to find pure vanilla extract. In the States I would buy pure vanilla bean paste in 2 pound bottles! Good, pure vanilla extract is absolutely necessary for your baked goods. Without it, flavors fall flat. Please don’t EVER use imitation vanilla.
I thought I would try my hand at homemade vanilla extract. After a few weeks, I didn’t think it was going to work out. But, leaving it alone for 3 months made all the difference.
How to make homemade vanilla extract:
To begin, you will need a small glass bottle with a tight seal. I used a 4.25 oz bottle like this one. Make sure it has been washed and sanitized.
Add two or three used vanilla beans to the bottle. I had to cut mine in half since they were too long. Then, fill the bottle up with vodka. I used Absolut Vodka. Seal the bottle and give it a little shake. Set aside in a cool, dark place for 3-6 months.
To check the extract, just give it a little whiff. If it smells like alcohol, it’s not ready. Leave it alone for a few more weeks and then check again. When it’s ready, it will be dark in color and smell like vanilla extract. You won’t be able to smell the alcohol at all.
To keep the homemade vanilla extract going, continue to add a vanilla bean after using in your pastries. Then top it off with more vodka. Using tweezers, remove the old vanilla beans after 6-12 months.
If you don’t use the extract within a year (how can you not???) throw it out.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
3 Vanilla Beans, split and scraped
Vodka, 4 oz.
- In a 4.25 oz. bottle, place the cut vanilla beans. Cut them in half if they don’t fit in the bottle.
- Fill the bottle with vodka almost to the top.
- Seal the bottle and shake it well. Place in a cool, dry place and leave it for 3 months.
- Check the bottle by smelling it. If you can still smell the alcohol, it isn’t ready. Shake the bottle again and leave for a few more weeks before checking again.
- Continue adding more beans and vodka to keep the extract going. Use tweezers to remove old beans.
- You can use any size bottle you would like. Just remember that the larger you go, the number of beans will need to increase, as well as the volume of vodka.
- Don’t waste the vanilla! Before placing the cut beans in the bottle, use the inside of the beans for your pastries. Vanilla bean paste is excellent in pastry creams, buttercreams, and the like.