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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract, every baker has experience with this ingredient. In the store, you pay an arm and a leg, maybe even your first born child for a couple of ounces of Pure Vanilla Extract. It’s used in recipes from cookies and cakes to sauces and drinks such as hot chocolate and vanilla milk. The scent of vanilla extract has also been said to have many homeopathic remedies besides just smelling good. I have read that it can ease nausea as well as treat minor scrapes.  All these fine uses for the extract, and it only comes in small bottles for high cost at the super market. 
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So, I had set out to make my own extract. Liquor is needed to extract the vanilla flavor from the bean. It is important in my opinion to use quality liquor. Like when cooking with wine, there is a flavor profile that the spirit will give your cooking and you should find that flavor to be pleasing.  From my experience extract made with vodka has a “purer” taste of vanilla.  The liquor is a clean distilled, basically flavor neutral, medium to make pure vanilla extract. You place 3 beans, split length wise in 1 cup of liquor. Place them in a glass jar, bottle or any glass sealable container and leave them in a cool dark place for 2 months or longer. Every few days, give the glass a quick shake to help incorporate the flavors. Like the liquors that are used to make the extract, time helps the flavor profiles to develop. Aging is a good thing. 

Once my first batch of extract was completed and I was in love, I could not resist the urge to experiment. What other flavor profiles and notes could be added to the vanilla by using other liquors besides vodka? Today, I set out and made 2 batches. The first one I used Makers Mark Bourbon and in the second I used E&J VSOP Brandy.  In two separate glass bottles I Poured 2 cups of liquor and added 6 vanilla beans, split length wise to glass "olive oil" decanters. It is going to be a long 2 months to wait to try my newest experiment. I am hoping that the Bourbon adds an earthy smokiness to the vanilla.  Brandy, which is fermented from grapes and not grain, will hopefully add sweet woody notes to the vanilla. It will be interesting to do a bit of a vanilla extract tasting…or at the very least smelling.  I can't wait to try it with cookies and in my french toast egg batter.  The timing of when these two batches should be ready to be sampled will be during Holiday cooking season. What better time to try out new recipes and ideas...especially new vanilla extracts : )
I love the color already

 Give it a try and let me know what you think of different liquors for making vanilla extract. I’d love to hear of past trials of making the extract. 

As always…Enjoy

: )
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  1. I'm making vanilla extract for Christmas gifts this year. I ordered beans online, and will use Prairie Grains vodka - an organic vodka that contains some of our corn. I wish I had known about your source for beans before I ordered mine!


  2. How cool is it that you are able to use vodka that contains your grain! I love that. Have you checked out their website? Mountain Rose Herb is such a cool site.