September 9, 2008


Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I was also suffering from a corn allergy. Because of that allergy, I learned that vanilla extract has corn syrup in it (at least the ones I found in the store). That information led me to learn how to make my own vanilla extract. I never went back to store bought vanilla.

There are quite a few different recipes out there for making vanilla extract. For the quantity I am making, some recipes call for six vanilla beans, others call for three. I use four.

To get started you need a pint of vodka, brandy or rum. I have always used rum, but in searching again recently for recipes I have read that vodka is the best. You also need some vanilla beans. You might find some at a health food store, but you will likely find better prices online. I ordered through Amazon and bought a pack of 16 beans for $14.95 with free shipping.

If you've never seen a vanilla bean, the picture above shows several. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see that the one under the knife has been slit open. This is done to all the beans. They should be slit lengthwise, but not cut all the way through. And that is almost all there is to it. Slit four beans, put them in a pint of vodka, brandy or rum, and close the lid. Now you need to give it time and some shaking. For the first week, shake the bottle a few times a day. Gradually decrease shaking time over the next month. You will be able to see the extract turning darker. It should sit at least a couple of months before using it. Three months is probably better. I leave the beans in the jar until it is empty. You can top off the bottle with fresh liquor occasionally to keep it going, but I have not actually tried this. What I usually do is every time I start using a new bottle of vanilla, I start making another one. Sometimes I use two beans from the old bottle with two new beans. Like I said, I have read a variety of methods for making vanilla, so you can play around with it and decide what you like best.

The picture on the right shows the bottle I am currently using and a bottle I just started. I'm starting four bottles today. One is for me and the rest will be for Christmas gifts. I will probably look for some nice looking bottles to put the extract in before giving it as a gift. I will also probably divide the pints but keep at least one bean in each bottle to continue giving it flavor.

Making your own vanilla extract is certainly cheaper than buying any brand name extracts. I spent total of $10.75 per 16 ounces on the bottles I just made. I did see a store brand today that was pure extract that would cost less than making your own, but I don't know how the quality is. I do know that it was in a plastic bottle, and I prefer glass. Many people say that making your own gives you much better quality. Depending on how strong it is, you may be able to use less than the amount of vanilla called for in recipes. Personally, I have gotten in the habit of doing it, and I really like it, so I will continue to make my own.

For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes-Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

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What a great idea! I love giving the vanilla for gifts idea! :) I may have to give this a try.

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