Hello there home baking afficionados! Do I have a treat for you. I was recently taste testing some food for my friend’s new restaurant. His wife baked THE absolutely most wonderful Raspberry Cheesecake in the world! It was unlike anything i’ve ever tasted in my country. Let’s just say that more than half of the cake disappeared that night. Her secret? Homemade vanilla extract.
At first, I was like “…say what? I never knew you could make vanilla extract at home.” She went back into the pantry and came out with a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka. Before I could refuse a shot of hard liquor, she showed me the inside of the bottle. Instead of finding clear hard liquor, I was shown something that looked like used oil from a deep fat fryer. Before that image turns you off, I can tell you that when she took the lid off that bottle, it smelled like vanilla heaven!
Why make homemade vanilla extract?
In many countries, the vanilla extract that’s available in stores and groceries is WEAK and not to mention EXPENSIVE. You pay a high price for a small bottle of vanilla extract that will probably only last a few pastries and dishes before you have to buy another bottle. Making your own vanilla extract gives you a STRONGER taste. Not to mention, it’s much CHEAPER than buying vanilla extract because of the vanilla beans. Vanilla beans may be expensive to buy at first, but your vanilla extract can last forever if stored properly. In fact, it gets better and better with age! Pure vanilla extract (i.e. vanilla beans + alcohol) does not expire because of the high alcohol content.
Vanilla extract is also a good way to reuse your used beans. If you find yourself using vanilla beans for a recipe, DO NOT THROW THE POD AWAY. Pop it into your vanilla extract jar, or if the pod is wet, properly dry it, then pop it inside. By doing this, you’re making your vanilla extract more and more flavorful.
Think about it, just keep topping up your extract with liquor and continue popping in those beans when you use a fresh one with a recipe (or when the vanilla smell disappears) and you’ll have an endless supply of vanilla extract!
Now with these few steps, you can make your very own homemade vanilla extract!
1. At least three new or used vanilla beans
3. A glass container with a tight lid (I prefer using the vodka bottle)
*Actually, you can use any hard liquor that has an alcohol content of 40% or more.
Vodka is usually used for homemade vanilla extracts. It has a neutral taste that will allow the natural flavor of vanilla to shine through. Rum is often used as a substitute for vodka as it gives the extract a more complex taste.
The most common ratio is 1 cup vodka : 3 vanilla beans
- Clean the container. If you’re using a container other than one the liquor comes in, you’ll have to sterilize it. The best way to do this is to pour boiling on it and wait for a few minutes to allow it to sterilize.
- Fill the container with vodka.
- Slice down the bean with a small knife. Becareful not to cut all the way through the pod. Open both flaps and scrape away the seeds with the back of your knife.*
- Put the vanilla seeds and the pods into the container with vodka. Close the lid.
- Shake the container well.
- Store your vanilla extract in a cool, dark cabinet. DO NOT USE IT YET.
- Shake it AT LEAST twice a week (and when you remember to). Keep doing this for TWO (2) MONTHS / EIGHT (8) WEEKS.
Congratulations! After two months have passed, you can start using your homemade vanilla extract. Just remember to shake before every use!
Learn how to make vanilla sugar here!