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homemade vanilla extract

January 31st, 2011 · 5 Comments

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We have all gotten the lecture about how important it is to buy real vanilla extract and not the imitation extract that is often sold in stores for a fraction of the cost. What we aren’t all told is how incredibly easy and economical it is to make your own vanilla extract at home. Once I read the Cook’s Illustrated post on how easy it is to make vanilla extract – which obviously tastes WAY better than imitation extract and is rated superior to the “real” extract sold in stores – I had to try making my own. I bought a slew of vanilla beans on eBay, reserved a few for my extract, and tossed the rest in the freezer to use at a later date.

A note: The vanilla extract that you buy at the store probably has caramel color added. Your extract will be lighter in color than what you are accustomed to, but it is no less tasty. And all those vanilla beans that get added to your cookies and cakes and ice creams when you use this extract is further confirmation that this is the only extract to use. The proof is literally in the pudding.

Because I already buy huge Costco-sized bottles of vodka to use for this pie crust, I often triple or even six-tuple this recipe.

homemade vanilla extract
recipe from www.cooksillustrated.com

1/2-3/4 cup cheap vodka (Cook’s Illustrated recommends 3/4, which is definitely more economical, but I often use 1/2 because I like a stronger vanilla taste)
1 vanilla bean

Heat the vodka in a covered saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling.

Split the vanilla bean down the middle, scrape out the seeds, and dump the bean and seeds into a glass jar.

Pour the hot vodka over the pod and seeds and loosely place a cap on top to prevent evaporation. After the vodka has cooled, seal the lid and shake vigorously. Shake mixture well at least once per day for a week. After one week, the extract is ready to use, although the flavor will strengthen over time. Store in a cool, dark place. The longer the extract is stored, the darker it will get.

 

 

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Tags: 60 min or less · dessert · kitchen tips · vegetarian

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Brent // Jan 31, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Hello,

    You are right, making homemade vanilla extract can be incredibly delicious and much more complex and flavorful than the extract that can be purchased in a grocery store.

    A few things to keep in mind:

    1. NEVER heat the vodka. This will cause the alcohol to boil off (much lower boiling point than water) and thus will diminish the ability to pull flavor from the vanilla bean.

    2. Be sure to use at least 5 vanilla beans per 8 ounces. This will get you closest to the FDA standard for a single fold vanilla extract. Any less and you are simply making vanilla flavored vodka. When in doubt, add more vanilla beans than less. Stores like http://www.beanilla.com have them for $1 or less per bean so there is no excuse to skimp on that part.

    I hope this helps! Happy cooking.

  • 2 paulawong // Jan 31, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Interestingly, Cook’s Illustrated has TWO recipes for vanilla extract. One is very similar to the recipe I posted above (although they recommend 3/4 cup vodka per bean). The other recipe suggests 1/2 cup cold vodka and a longer steep time. I think the idea of heating the vodka is to decrease the wait time. Granted, my vanilla extract definitely looks and smells better the longer it sits, so I start one batch when I am half way through another to increase the taste factor. :)

  • 3 LeAnn // Jan 31, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Oooh, I was wondering how yours turned out – I’m glad you posted this! I still want to try this…

  • 4 baconandbaileys // Oct 14, 2011 at 5:43 am

    I am almost out of a bottle of beautiful Mexican Vanilla that friends brought home for me. I am definitely making this!!!

  • 5 bridget // Oct 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    was just on tastespotting and did a double take when i saw your photo! amazing skillz paula!!!!!!!!!

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