Introduction: DIY Vanilla Extract
Recently I saw a post on Chocolate & Zucchini on making your own vanilla extract. Since this sells for nearly as much as HP printer ink at the super market I thought it would be worth looking into.
As it turns out it’s incredibly easy to make and totally worth doing. I followed this “recipe” from Chocolate & Zucchini.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 3 medium vanilla beans, or 1 1/2 fat ones
- 1 cup rum or vodka
Homemade Vanilla Extract via Chocolate & Zucchini
Step 1: Sanitize, Slice, Pour.
There really isn’t much to this. I picked up a pound of “Grade B Extract Vanilla Beans” on eBay for $20 shipped and a handle of Vodka for $17.99. As it turns out a pound of vanilla beans is an incredible amount of beans. Recipes seem to recommend anywhere from 3 to 6 beans per cup of alcohol. I used 6 and still had enough beans to make this recipe 5 or 6 times over. Something to think about when making that eBay order.
Figuring 3 beans per cup of alcohol I calculated out the amount of alcohol and number of beans needed (a lot).
The steps for preparing this are pretty simple.
1. Remove vodka or rum from original bottle
2. Split vanilla beans in half
3. Sanitize bottle
4. Put beans in the bottom of the now empty and sanitized bottle
5. Pour vodka back into bottle
6. Cap it, date it and throw it in the back of your cabinet.
Sanitizing the bottle may have been overkill but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Give the bottle a shake everyday for the first week and then once or twice a week for the rest of the infusion period.
Your vodka/rum should be “extract” in 2 months but will continue to improve in flavor for at least another 4-6 months.
Step 2: Wait
One of the most fun parts of this project was designing an old timey label to go on the bottle. I settled on the name “Uncle Chris’ fancy vanillin extract” which seemed sufficiently old timey. I sketched up a drawing of my label and handed it over to my girlfriend who did a great job making it into a vector image. She then applied an aged look to the label for printing. These were printed on sticker sheets for easy application. Below is the evolution of the label.
I ordered the bottles from Amazon, having glass shipped is really expensive so using my Amazon Prime shipping was easily the cheapest way to get these. Eight ounces seemed to be the most practical size and I really liked the look of these brown bottles.
Step 3: Bottle, Label, Gift.
After the two month wait is finally over your extraction phase has completed, now on to bottling!
I did a little taste/smell test, comparing the home brew extract to a bottle of McCormick’s Real Vanilla Extract. The homemade stuff smells sweeter and looks a little lighter. I find the McCormick extract to have a bit of a chemical odor when compared to the home brew extract.
I started with two handles of vodka (added one the next day after seeing how easy it was!) and ended up with 12 8-ounce bottles of extract. Considering the cost of the ingredients I’d say it was a pretty good deal. I included a split vanilla bean in each bottle to continue extraction. This way the extract will continue to age and darken over time.
In addition to labeling all the bottles I also numbered and dated them. Beyond just being OCD the dates are on there because according to my original recipe the extract should continue to improve for the next 4 months.
The extract smells and tastes great, considering the price difference I can't imagine I'd ever buy vanilla extract from the store again. In general I’d say this is a pretty easy project worth trying. A++ would extract again.