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Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Day 1

May 8, 2009
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I have yet another DIY food project for you today: homemade vanilla extract! I have to credit my friend Emily for turning me on to this one; I just started a few jars yesterday and in a month or so, fingers crossed, should have knock-your-socks off super-aromatic extract.

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Around us, the best price I can get vanilla beans for is about $1/bean, which up until recently I thought was a fairly good deal. Those are the kind that come, somewhat shriveled, as two to a little glass test tube. As it turns out, there’s a company called Vanilla Products USA thatsells packages of bulk vanilla beans for quite a steal. They have an eBay store where I picked up 30 organic extract-grade beans for $9. The beans arrived and the quality was better than I’d seen in storebought beans: pretty plump and very aromatic.

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The process to making extract is easy, and there’s a thread on eGullet if you want to read about people’s experiments. I decided to divide 10 beans among 3 pint canning jars, filling the jars with vodka (since it’s flavorless.) I split the beans before placing them in the jar, which should speed up extraction and also infuse the extract with the minuscule vanilla seeds — which, I think, will be lovely in baked goods. I’m storing the jars in a dark cabinet for about a month, shaking them each day. After 1 day, here’s what we have:

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Already turning a light amber. So, this should be an exciting experiment, and I’ll do some periodic posts on the progress of the extract — and perhaps a taste test at the end next to my storebought bottle? I think it would be interesting to bake something with both and see if I can tell the difference. (I’m also thinking this would make great gifts for fellow cooks!)

Update on how the project turned out is here.

Here’s the info:

Vanilla Products USA eBay Store

eGullet thread on making your own vanilla extract

Enjoy!

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2009 9:01 am

    I love this idea – I just need to get mason jars, vodka, and vanilla beans in my house all at once (harder done then said), but I think these are awesome gifts for my foodie/cooking friends.

  2. May 8, 2009 9:01 am

    I am definitely going to do this over the summer. Now, to scout out reasonably priced vanilla beans. Thanks for the info as to how to order them. I am loving this idea.

  3. May 8, 2009 9:20 am

    Yay! Looking forward to when it’s pitch black :) We get beans for about $2.50. But at least they’re long and fat (will be a while before we get them in bulk though!)

  4. May 8, 2009 9:43 am

    Thanks for the link! I’ve had such a hard time finding affordable vanilla beans around me. I think I’d really like to try making the extract.

  5. May 8, 2009 9:44 am

    Super smart idea! Are you going to transfer the extract to a more “pourable” bottle latter or just spoon out the teaspoons/tablespoons as needed?

  6. May 8, 2009 11:16 am

    I’ve been meaning to do this as I have a large supply of vanilla beans at the moment! I might have make this one of my weekend projects :)

  7. May 8, 2009 12:29 pm

    We used to do this at the bakery I worked in in Dallas. I have a jar of rum-based vanilla extract going in my cupboard right now. I want to try a bourbon version but bourbon is sooo expensive here in France. It would be interesting to try this with other spirits, too… brandy comes to mind.

  8. Lillianne permalink
    May 8, 2009 4:10 pm

    This post is very helpful to me. Thanks!

  9. twospoons permalink
    May 8, 2009 6:37 pm

    Ooo, thank you for the link to the vanilla USA store!
    I’ve done my own vanilla extract before but over here you pay $5 for two beans, and that’s considered cheap!

  10. May 9, 2009 4:06 am

    This is one thing I still want to try myself. Unfortunately,just about everything is expensive in the UK. Not just the extract but the vanilla beans themselves, so I’ll have to do some research.

    You look as if you’re on the road to success!

  11. May 10, 2009 12:50 pm

    What a cool project – I can’t wait to see the outcome – or the tasty recipes that will involve the outcome!!

  12. trufflesteph permalink
    May 10, 2009 5:36 pm

    Fabulous! It really is amazing how much difference a really good vanilla can make in baked goods (and custards, and ice creams). The cheap, artificial stuff really isn’t worth it at all. And a good vanilla can make chocolate taste even better, too! Thanks for the inspiration and pointers!

  13. May 10, 2009 8:20 pm

    I’m making my own condiments all because of you Amy. The mayo amazed me, and I also tried the ketchup but didn’t quite nail it the first time. I know what I messed up though and will do it again.

    Anyway, the vanilla extract is also a great idea. Look forward to seeing the progress and would love to hear if you can tell the difference in a baked item.

  14. May 10, 2009 9:09 pm

    My reaction to these make-your-own [fill in the blank] posts is always the same: Cool! And this one is no different. I’m definitely going to give this a try. Thanks for the inspiration, Amy!

  15. May 11, 2009 3:32 pm

    Holly — agreed; I think they’d make terrific gifts!

    Claudia – thanks!

    Manggy – yes! I can’t wait until it’s pitch black too. You’re lucky to live in a place where vanilla beans actually *grow*…must be wonderful!

    Victoria – enjoy!

    whitney — yep; I probably will. Wouldn’t want to spill any of the stuff as I’m spooning it out (and with my luck I probably would!)

    Jayme – enjoy!

    croquecamille – that’s interesting to hear you used to do it in the bakery…I love your ideas of trying different spirits. Brandy would be delicious.

    Lilliane, twospoons – glad you found it helpful!

    Michelle – sorry to hear that, but hope you have some luck finding some relatively inexpensive UK sources!

    sue bette – I thought it was a pretty cool experiment, too. Glad you agree! ;)

    trufflesteph – oh, I can’t agree w/you more. I don’t understand how some folks can use the artificial stuff…it tastes nothing like real vanilla, IMO. Even though the premium extract is expensive, I think it definitely makes a difference.

    Melissa – aw, that’s sweet! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the DIY condiments. :) I will definitely keep everyone posted on the results!

    Kristin – great! So glad you are inspired, too! :)

  16. May 11, 2009 9:46 pm

    Very impressive. I can’t wait to hear how it turns out. I agree, this would make a great gift! What a beautiful idea.

  17. ziabaki permalink
    May 13, 2009 10:29 pm

    I just got online and ordered some of those vanilla beans. I have been trying to make vanilla for about……well… 6 months, give or take a month, and not much seems to be happening. If that is the action you got after one day, I think I got vanilla beans on a Tahitian vacation. Thanks for the resource and great blog!
    Dana Zia

  18. Paula permalink
    May 23, 2009 1:09 pm

    I have been making vanilla for years. I have used brandy as it was cheap at the time I started doing this.
    Makes great Christmas presents.
    I put the vanilla beans in the brandy bottle to let it set for at least a month, then pour into an uesed glass vanilla container. Of course could use any used glass container from which to make it easier to measure from.
    I buy my vanilla beans from Penzys. Can order online.

  19. May 25, 2009 4:09 pm

    I’ve been meaning to do this since I bought a pound (yes, a POUND!) of vanilla beans a few months ago. I can’t wait to see your results!

  20. Rob permalink
    January 15, 2011 10:51 pm

    I love doing vanilla extract this way it just tastes so fresh! However, I prefer using light rum to vodka it just seems to complement the vanilla better

  21. November 26, 2013 12:56 pm

    Do I have to use alcohol? My husband is nine years sober……thanks!

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