I can’t believe that summer is coming to an end. Where has the summer gone? Oh yes…I remember…watching Netflix , taking my kids to the pool, and drinking wine. Ok, maybe I can believe it. I love summer but the heat always makes me excited for fall. With fall baking around the corner it’s time to get a batch of homemade vanilla extract going. You can do this, it’s super easy. Your inner Martha Stewart is dying to come out. You want to give your vanilla extract a good 2 months to be ready, so grab your supplies and let’s get going so we’re ready for fall.
Supplies you need:
glass bottle or jar
Any cheap vodka will do as long as it’s unflavored. By all means save your money and use the cheapest. Using a higher quality vodka isn’t necessary but it’s what I had on hand. We aren’t big vodka drinkers so I’m using a higher quality because otherwise it will just sit in my cabinet…I don’t even remember why I bought this vodka. It was probably that time I made Moscow Mules. You want to use a glass jar or bottle, size-wise it should hold at least 8 ounces. I bought the Hermetic Glass Flask from The Container Store, it holds 17 ounces. That store is my drug! I love everything in there, it seems I can’t stay out of that store!! They also sell smaller bottles that are perfect for giving smaller amounts away as gifts. You can also probably find a variety of glass bottles on Amazon.
Besides vodka the next step is to track down some vanilla beans. I almost ordered some off Amazon but with some negative reviews I chickened out last minute. I’ve made my own vanilla extract for years and I’ve always been very pleased with the quality of the Madagascar vanilla beans from Beanilla. So I went back to my trusty source.
I have seen vanilla beans sold at a grocery store, but they seem very overpriced, thin, and hard. A speciality grocery store could have better quality than the ones I found. These beans from Beanilla are plump and soft, similar to raisins. This is not a sponsored or affiliated post, I just really like the quality you get at Beanilla. Shipping is pretty quick as well. When you open the sealed package of vanilla beans the smell is incredible!
How many beans should you use?
There are so many different formulas for this. Beanilla recommends 7 beans per cup of vodka. You can certainly use their formula but I find that a bit high so I’ve always use less. A good rule of thumb is at least 3-5 beans per cup of vodka for the best result. Some people use more and some use less. I used 7 beans for 12 ounces of vodka. I try always try to use less to make it more cost effective. So always use at least 3 beans per cup of vodka and 5 or more is icing on the cake. If you use less you may just need it to age a little longer. My 7 vanilla beans from Beanilla were $36.95 plus the cost of the vodka whatever that was. I know this can seem high but seriously I have vanilla extract that will last me for years. Plus you can top if off with a little extra vodka as you use it up. Your homemade vanilla extract will be higher quality than any grocery store vanilla you can find I promise!
What kind of beans should you use?
Madagascar has that smooth classic vanilla flavor. Mexican has a slight spice to it while Tahitian beans have a more floral fruity flavor. My usual go to beans are Madagascar but you can certainly experiment and create different blends. Vanilla beans can seem expensive but then again so is a small bottle of vanilla extract. You’re making such a large and high quality batch of vanilla extract the cost of the beans is still economical, especially when you realize how long it will last you!
Exactly how long should it age?
Many people will recommend 2 months at least, in my experience for the best flavor I always go a minimum of 3 months. I feel at 3 months my vanilla is ready for use. However some say up to 6 months is best. Honestly the longer it sits the better it tastes but you can absolutely use it at the 2 or 3 month mark. You can start using it at the 3 month mark for great flavor and it will continue to age to perfection.
With a knife carefully slice along the bean leaving the ends intact. Cut deep enough so the beans open up and you can see the squishy seed part but try not to cut all the way through the bean.
Measure your vodka out per how many beans your using and pour it into your jar or bottle.
My husband came home to a nearly empty vodka bottle on the counter. Haha…I had to explain to him that I didn’t need rehab I was just making vanilla extract.
Add your vanilla beans to the vodka filled bottle or jar, add the lid and give it a good shake. Oh by the way while slicing your beans if you had any vanilla bean goo leak out you can add that to the vodka as well. You can even have a little taste, I personally love it!
The presence of the vanilla bean flakes is just fine, it adds a homemade touch and says yes I’m the real deal. Plus those little vanilla flakes will only make your food better I promise. While your vanilla is aging over the next couple months you can occasionally check on it and shake it up.
Be sure to date your vanilla because I’m telling you, you think you’ll remember when you started but you probably won’t. You’ll be scratching your head trying to remember how long your vanilla has aged.
When storing vanilla extract it should be kept in a dark cool space. So no storing above your oven, near the dishwasher, or in a sunny spot. My vanilla is hanging out in a dark spot in my pantry and has made friends with the almonds and peanuts so luckily it’s not lonely and won’t mind chilling for a while.
How long does vanilla extract last?
Store bought imitation vanilla extract can last you about 2-4 years. Homemade vanilla extract should last indefinitely. So make a big batch and rest assured you’re covered with amazing vanilla for years!
Look at this, we have a big bottle of vanilla extract! We’re ready to bake pies, cookies, cakes….anything your heart desires! Plus as it ages you’ll get even more rich vanilla goodness!
In terms of gift giving I recommend giving vanilla extract that has aged 3 months. At this point it has a nice rich color and full flavor. If you started late then at least wait 2 months before gifting. I’ve seen some people that give small bottles of freshly made (clear) unaged vanilla as gifts with instructions to let it age before use. I think if you want to make the best impression for a gift it should be ready to use immediately. When gifting your aged vanilla extract I recommend adding a bean or half a bean. Not only does adding a vanilla bean give a really great visual and a decorative homemade touch, it lets the vanilla aging process continue. You do not need to use a new bean, a previous soaked bean from your larger bottle is just fine. Pour your extract in a smaller bottle, add a ribbon and a tag and what an adorable gift you have! It’s very cost effective for you and it’s a very useful fun gift to receive!
You can absolutely bargain shop other places for beans and try to get your vanilla extract cost even lower. Regardless of cost, any time I make my own vanilla extract my desserts, cocktails and baked goods tastes amazingly better compared to store bought extract! As you use your vanilla you can gradually add little bits of vodka to replenish your stash. Just make sure it maintains its rich color. You can even add a bean here and there if needed.
If you’ve experimented with different beans and blends or know of other recommend vanilla bean suppliers leave me a comment and let me know. I love to share and I love to learn through others! Happy baking!