Tips-y Tuesdays: Homemade Vanilla Extract

This is the first installment of Tips-y Tuesdays, and I figured that it should start with an appropriately alcohol-related post. Tips-y Tuesdays are going to be each week in September, and I will share simple recipes and/or tips with the intention of hearing tips from readers, too!

Don’t fall for it: Bourbon Vanilla means the beans are from the Bourbon Island, not from bourbon the alcohol, but bourbon does taste really good as a vanilla extract!

I had been hearing about homemade vanilla extract each time I researched buying vanilla beans. People would say how much cheaper it is and how good it is. I do like to try homemade versions of usual store staples, but even this struck me as something challenging. What about sterilizing? Getting the proportion right? How will I know when it’s ready? I was also nervous about buying vanilla beans and using them quickly enough.

Well, after the initial set of questions, and after buying vanilla beans for the first time, I have now made two batches of vanilla extract. I highly recommend it, both for price and quality.

First off, for beans, I recommend the Bourbon Madagascar vanilla beans I bought on Amazon. You get about 50-60 beans of great quality. I bought them months ago, and they are still just fine. I store them in my pantry in a sealed bag.

Next, I learned that you don’t have to worry about sterilizing the bottles because it’s alcohol! Yippee!

For the proportions, I have been using a smallish liquor bottle size of 750 mL and I use about 8 beans for that amount. To make it really simple, just put the beans in right with the alcohol! As I use the extract, I can add a little more alcohol at a time so it stays flavored.

To know when it’s ready, I should first explain the process. After you get the beans, pick your alcohol. You can either use vodka (it will be faster) or another alcohol (such as bourbon, my favorite!).

Notice the color at the start.

Then, split open the beans with a sharp knife.

Put the beans into the alcohol, close the bottle and shake it to mix the beans into the alcohol. Each day, shake the bottle to distribute the beans. For the vodka, you will notice the color changing rapidly and you can smell it each day to see how closely it compares to your current vanilla extract. It took about a month for mine to be just right. For the bourbon, it was closer to two months.

The one on the left is the bourbon and the one on the right is made from vodka. Lovely dark color!

6 thoughts on “Tips-y Tuesdays: Homemade Vanilla Extract

  1. That is not nearly as expensive as I thought it would be. $27 for a half pound of vanilla beans isn’t bad at all. I added them to my amazon wishlist and I think I might try this after we move. I assume since it is alcohol the extract lasts for quite a while?? That would be a really good holiday gift…

    • I was able to buy them closer to $20 because the price fluctuates, so yeah they are definitely a lot cheaper than you would think.

      The extract apparently lasts indefinitely, so it’s a good investment! I hadn’t thought of it as a gift…if only I was allowed to take bigger liquids through the airport. 😦

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