Saturday, July 6, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract 101

How many of you buy your vanilla extract from the grocery store? Hmmmm, that's what I thought...
And in case you didn't know, making your own pure vanilla extract is super simple and cheaper than the store bought vanilla. I made my mom some for Mother's Day and I'm so excited to show you how to make your own! A bottle of homemade vanilla extract would make the perfect Christmas gift or hostess gift for someone who enjoys baking, just sayin'...
First, you will need to buy vanilla beans. You can buy these at your local grocery store, located in the spice aisle (it will be expensive), or you can buy them online from Amazon or my favorite bean site, Beanilla. Madagascar vanilla beans are my favorite to use, but there are many different types and grades of vanilla beans. "A" grade beans are the best of the best, but "B" grade beans will work perfect for making your own extract, as they are known as extract grade beans.
Madagascar Vanilla Bean
Once you have vanilla beans on hand, you will need alcohol (I used vodka). In order to be FDA compliant, your alcohol will need to be 35% alcohol, but if you're using it at home or gifting it to friends, you can use 40% (which is more common at ABC stores).
The general rule of thumb for making vanilla extract is 5 beans to one cup of alcohol. Begin by slicing the beans lengthwise and placing them into a jar (make sure it has a lid that seals). Pour in the vodka (or whatever alcohol you are using), making sure that the beans are fully submerged, and close the jar. Place the jar in a dark area (the inside of a cabinet or closet works great) and let it sit for a minimum of two months (four to five months is ideal) for a stronger vanilla flavor. All you have to do is shake the jar once each week; it couldn't be any more simple!
Here's a quick before/after photo (obviously different batches):


Once the vanilla beans have done their thing and you are ready to transfer the vanilla to small jars, you will want to strain the small bean particles out of the extract. The easiest and most cost effective way to do this is to place a coffee filter inside of a measuring cup and pour the extract into the measuring cup.

The coffee filter does a great job catching small bean particles and the best part is that there are no fancy kitchen gadgets required!

Next, use a small funnel to pour the extract into the bottles you are using. I don't have a small enough funnel so I used a plastic syringe. A dropper will work great too!

I poured by vanilla extract into 2-ounce Boston Round Bottles that I found on Amazon. You can use any kind of bottle that seals, but dark amber colored bottles work best, as they keep the light out; extracts are definitely sensitive to light.

Happy Vanilla Making!

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