Hot Polka Dot
30May/11

How To Tuesday: Very Vanilla.

It takes a few vanilla beans, a splash of vodka and a heap of patience to make your very own vanilla extract. Considering the price of vanilla extracts and beans I think it's well worth the wait. You get the most out of those pricy beans and definite bang for your buck.

Since starting my vanilla extract I read on the almighty internets that the only way to make a true vanilla extract is to obey the ratio of 6 or even 8 vanilla beans to 1 cup of alcohol. Anything less and you're just making vanilla flavoured vodka. Sigh. Where I buy my vanilla beans they come 2 to a vial for about $4.50 so 6 beans is going to put me back $13.50 and that's only going to be a hair more cost effective than buying it in the store once I go about the business of buying the vodka.

So I leave the choice up to you. If you'd prefer a more potent extract and have a cheaper source for beans then, by all means, stuff six of those suckers in the jar. If you're like me and can't justify the expense then just work with what you've got. You can always splash a little more extract in there for good measure because who doesn't like a little extra vanilla goodness?






































All you'll need is...

3 - 6 vanilla beans
1 paring knife or pair of scissors
1 cup vodka
1 airtight jar (preferably dark glass)

Note: Vodka is the preferred alcohol to use when making vanilla extract because it has a neutral flavour and does not impart it's own flavour to the mix. Feel free to use rum, brandy or even gin if you'd rather infuse the extract with a little something extra.

Using your knife or scissors slice each vanilla bean in half lengthwise leaving one end intact to keep the halves connected. Place them in the jar and cover them with the vodka.

Store the jar in a cool dark place for at least 2 months. Make sure to give it a shake every few days to encourage extraction. It can last for years and get better with age just like a fine wine. Enjoy!







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  1. Hi Lindsey! I am going to have to make this! Thanks for the recipe, I didn’t realize how easy it was to make your own vanilla flavor! Hope you are having a wonderful week :) !

  2. Great idea! I use so much vanilla extract it’s crazy.

  3. I think it would be a pretty Christmas gift. Something fancy yet practical. I think I read somewhere that you can keep topping it up with more vodka to make it last a little longer. Did you read anything like that?

    • Yes I did actually, but it seemed suspicious so I left it out of the post. I don’t know, to me it just sounds like you’d be watering down the vanilla flavour. It would make a good Christmas gift too!

  4. lindsay this is amazing! i am going to try this!! i use sooo much vanilla and i buy it at costco now. i always have vodka in the cabinet so i’ll just have to buy the beans. where do you by yours? i have only seen them at bulk barn.

  5. Ooh, what a lovely idea! They make such lovely gifts, too :-)

  6. AWESOME IDEA! I love this recipe, very easy and packed with flavor! Thanks you for sharing!!!!

  7. I have always wanted to make my own vanilla extract, but never got around to it. Thanks for the tips, the recipe & the inspiration :)

  8. Love this post! Making my own vanilla extract has been on my to do list for some time now, thanks for the nudge in the right direction :-) Beautiful photos too.

  9. How cool is this! What a great idea, and how easy! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Very cool idea–and a great gift!

  11. Ah. I have been wanting to me this forever but no alcohol for us here in Kuwait ;-) I hear glycerin can be used instead but I’m scared to try!

  12. This is great! Thank you for sharing, Lindsey!

  13. I made this with white rum and it’s divine. Put it atop some vanilla icecream with fresh strawberries and you are in heaven. I am not sure if it’ll work with glycerine/glycerol. In small quantities it shouldn’t cause problems with the exception that it tends to bind with water and has a hydrating/dehydrating effect. The alcohol draws out the flavor from the bean and I don’t know if the glycerol would have the same effect.

  14. I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for a couple of years… it’s pretty cost-effective using beans from Costco, especially since a good-quality vanilla extract ain’t cheap.
    I like to use rye whiskey, though. I’m a rebel like that. :) (Actually, I just like the added depth it gives the extract, especially if I’m using it for vanilla ice cream or custard)

    • I should really get some beans at Costco, but we don’t really go there for anything else. It’s such a pain with the lineups and the crowds, but the deals are pretty awesome.

  15. Ive always wanted to make my own vanilla. And thanks Isabelle for the tip about buying the beans from Costco.

  16. This is definitely on the to-do list. I go through vanilla like crazy! I like the idea of getting the vanilla beans at Costco…though I have the opposite problem there…it’s too easy to impulse buy! :)

  17. A homemade make-your-own-vanilla-extract kit was given to us one year by my husband’s aunt. It’s fantastic!

  18. I think you can order beans in bulk online, in the event that you want to make a large batch and give to friends. Cheaper that way, I’d think? Some places you can get a pound for $50.

    • You’re right, it would be a lot cheaper to buy the beans in bulk. I’ll probably start doing that one of these days because I use more and more pure vanilla.

  19. Wow this is so interesting! Have you ever tried making flavoured liqueurs? I really want to try to make an Elderflower liqueur, and am wondering whether I similar method to this would work?
    Keep the beautiful pictures coming!

    • Yes I definitely think it;s just as easy to make your own flavoured alcohol. I’ve seen some really interesting tutorials out there online. It would make a wonderful gift!

  20. I love this idea. I’ve always wanted to try making my own vanilla extract! Have you had a chance to use yours yet or is it still aging/extracting?

    Those jars look adorable too!

  21. this looks awesome! i cant wait to make some soon. thank you for sharing this.

  22. Ah, I have always known in the back of my mind that I could make my own extract, but yours looks so darn cute it will be on my mind all the time! This would be a great gift!

  23. Making my own vanilla extract was on my to do list for a while now, thanks for reminding me.
    I go thought store bought one like crazy, hubby asks if i put in soup too :) ))

    Thanks for sharing Lindsey,
    have a great weekend

  24. What a great idea. I had no idea I could make my own. I am going to bookmark this so I do not forget. My sister sends me the watkins vanilla as she buys all their spices. I am so in love with it but I go through bottles and bottles of it. Thanks so much for posting this.

  25. Hello, Congratulations!
    I’m From Portugal. First time leave coment. I bought Vanilla Here (http://zoe.vanille.free.fr/index.html) last year for Christmas and i’m very happy with! :D
    Try, if it works..
    Kisses ;)

  26. http://www.vanillafoodcompany.ca is the place to shop for vanilla beans ;)

  27. This is excellent! I should really make this!
    Do you think it would work with cinnamon too? It should…

  28. Costco has a good set of vanilla beans! I think its about 5-6 per vial and you get two vials in one package. I could be wrong but I think they are about $12? Still way better than buying them at bulk barn.

  29. Try beanilla.com
    They have 25beans for $25 I believe. Just got mine to make for xmas gifts.
    The more you buy the cheaper they are.

  30. Made vanilla a couple of times. Used vodka, rum and bourbon. Loved the bourbon the best. Just one note do not use bottles with corks. Look really cute but the liquid will evaporate! Learned the hard way!


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