I am cheap. I ran out of vanilla extract and saw the insane prices for such small bottles in the store. Seriously. Insane. They sell it in those tiny bottles to keep the price reasonable but look at the cost per quart. I dare you. At my local grocery store, the prices ranged between $50 and $200 per quart! No wonder they sell it in those tiny bottles. Who can afford that? This homemade version is around $25 per quart – but we will make it in a smaller quantity to save money.
Preparation for Making the Extract
Vanilla extract is made from two ingredients. That’s it. Vanilla Beans and Vodka. Fortunately, my neighborhood liquor store is in the same shopping complex as the grocery store, so I popped over to pick up some vodka. It doesn’t matter which one you get, but don’t get a flavored one.
I ordered vanilla beans on Amazon. I couldn’t afford the price for the ones in the grocery store. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime, because they arrived in just a couple of days.
What Type of Vanilla Bean
Grade B is the way to go. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Grade A vanilla beans are better than Grade B. This isn’t a classroom score. If you really want to geek out on the fine points of vanilla bean use, read this informative article at Vanilla Review.
Grade A Vanilla Beans
Grade A beans have a higher water content and, as a result, are more supple. They are much more visually appealing than Grade B. These are used for food dishes primarily.
Grade B Vanilla Beans
These beans are drier, contain less water and do not look as nice. These are the beans that are meant for using in extracts. Make sure you order these.
What other Type of Vanilla Bean
There are too many decisions to make, right? Madagascar and Tahitian are the two primary types of vanilla beans, both available on Amazon. There are other varieties that I listed below as well.
Madagascar Vanilla Beans
These are the traditional beans with an almost-spicy aroma. This same variety of bean is also grown in Mexico. I can’t tell the difference between their tastes, but there is supposed to be a difference.
Tahitian Vanilla Beans
These vanilla beans have a floral aftertaste. It still has the distinctive vanilla taste but has a very unique finish to it.
Tongan Vanilla Beans
These beans have even stronger overtones of fruit and florals, similar to the Tahitian bean.
Indonesian Vanilla Beans
Indonesian beans have a woody or smoky flavor on top of the vanilla
Making the Vanilla Extract
Select the Grade B vanilla bean you wish to use. Grab a glass jar with a lid, and pour in one cup of the vodka.
Slice seven or eight beans lengthwise (be careful not to cut yourself) and use a pair of scissors to cut the pods into the desired lengths. I usually just cut them to length in order to stay submerged in the vodka.
Look closely and you’ll see the very tiny beans. They almost look like a black dust. This is where all the flavor resides!
Add the beans to the glass jar. Pour the vodka over the beans, making sure that all the beans are covered.
Put the lid on the jar and place it in the cabinet to age. After a few days, the vodka will start to darken and the smell will be very distinctive vanilla. It is ready for use after eight weeks. I read where one baker kept his aging for two years before he used it. I don’t have the patience for that, but I bet it tasted divine!
Note: Keep the beans and the pods in the vodka. The longer it stays in the vodka, the more it ages and will develop a very strong and deep flavor.
Accelerating the Extraction Process
I admit it. I have used an Instant Pot to accelerate the process. To do this, add one cup of vodka to a Pyrex measuring cup, and then the vanilla beans.
Set the Instant Pot to Manual and set the timer for 35 minutes. After it cools, pour the mixture into the storage jars. Make sure to include the beans and the pods. Even though you gave it a kick start with the Instant Pot, more flavors will be released over time.
Storing the Vanilla Extract
It is traditional to use a dark brown bottle to protect the vodka and beans from sunlight. If you are a traditionalist, then go for it! Here is a link to amazon for the small, brown bottles. These are also really good bottles if you want to give away vanilla bean extract as gifts. That is a super creative gift idea!
I don’t worry about the brown jars too much. First of all, I keep it in my cupboard, and it doesn’t get exposed to light very often. Second, I use the extract pretty darned fast, and I doubt that the sunlight would have enough chance to cause any lasting damages.
Giving the Vanilla Extract as Gifts
This is one of my favorite holiday gifts to give. It is super easy to make, extremely creative, and I bet your friends will love it! It is a whole lot cheaper than buying that expensive store-bought! I love giving gifts people will actually utilize and vanilla bean extract is a win!
To make the gift giving a bit more fun, I am including a FREE printables sheet with a gift tag for you to fill out for your friends. Add in your name, the date you created the extract, and the type of bean you used.
Let me know how you like this? Do you think it tastes better than store bought?
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