Homemade vanilla extract is a perfect DIY holiday gift, and very easy to make. It’s only two ingredients!
Even if you don’t need it for gifts, there are several good reasons for making your own vanilla extract:
- Homemade vanilla extract costs much less than most store-bought non-artificial varieties
- It has a long (virtually indefinite) shelf life
- It’s simple to make
- There are no artificial colors or flavors
- Contains no fillers such as water and sugar
- Tastes SO much better than the store-bought artificially-flavored or watered-down kind!
The only thing is, you have to start it well ahead of time because it takes time for the vanilla beans to infuse with the vodka. The minimum is 8 weeks of aging before it’s ready. However, the longer it infuses the better it gets – so think months, not weeks. To have it in time for Christmas, I’m starting it in August.
This recipe makes approximately six 4-oz. bottles of vanilla extract. For gifting, you’ll need bottles with tight seals (be sure to hand-wash the bottles first) and a small funnel; and labels if desired. I ordered this bottle kit for mine. You won’t need the little bottles until the vanilla is done aging though, because we’ll use the vodka bottle to do the infusing. But I went ahead and bought mine from Amazon at the same time as the vanilla beans so that I’d be sure to have what I needed.
- A fifth of unflavored, inexpensive vodka (one 25 oz. bottle). Bourbon, rum or brandy could also be used instead.
- 25 whole vanilla beans. I recommend Madagascar Bourbon Grade-A vanilla beans, which I purchased online from Amazon. The Grade-A beans are a little more expensive, but you’ll get better flavor.
Step 1: To make room for the beans in the vodka bottle, pour out about 1/2 cup of the vodka into a glass. In that glass, add fresh squeezed juice of two oranges and make yourself a screwdriver (optional, but why let it go to waste? lol!).
Step 2: With a sharp paring knife, slice the vanilla beans down the middle (but don’t cut all the way in half) to expose the seeds.
Step 3: Place the beans in the vodka bottle and seal tightly. Shake.
Step 4: Store in a dark, cool place and let the vanilla extract age for at least 8 weeks, or up to 5 months or so. Occasionally during this time, shake the bottle.
Step 5: After the aging process is complete, place one of the whole vanilla beans in each of the small bottles you’re using. Then use the funnel to transfer the extract to the small bottles. Seal tightly.
Now it’s ready for gifting, or to use in your favorite holiday baking recipes. Enjoy!
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