Desserts · Food Tips · Uncategorized

DIY Vanilla Extract

If I had the time and resources, I would make everything from scratch. Everything. From scratch to-the-max. My heart would be so happy if I could have chickens for eggs, goats for milk and cheese and a massive garden for organic herbs and vegetables. It’s my dream to own a chunk of property on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, MI and be somewhat self-sustaining.

Living in an apartment, I have to start small. Something simple. I’m still formulating a plan to keep an indoor herb garden safe from the cats (Any advice?), but I could try something else. Like making my own extracts. I just read about making extracts at home – did you know how mind-blowingly easy it is? You take the ingredient that you want an extract from and soak it in vodka for 30+ days in a sealed bottle in a cool, dark place. Tada!

Vanilla Extract

Once I read about how easy it is to make extracts, my mind ran wild with all of the things I could make extracts from. Cinnamon, lemon, almond, lavender? But I thought it would be wise to start with a basic vanilla extract. I’ll make this and then see how it turns out, before I buy and waste a bunch of vodka and other ingredients. Because, you know, there’s a lot of other things that I could do with vodka…

I bought 4 whole vanilla bean pods to use in my extract. Forewarning: Vanilla beans can be a bit pricey. We live by a market that sells 2 whole beans for $3, but Meijer will sell 2 large vanilla beans for $6.50.

I sliced the vanilla beans open with a paring knife. It can be hard at first because the beans have a thick skin. Push the point of your knife into the pod and pull through the length of the pod. Make sure you’re putting a lot of pressure on the tip of the knife to continue the cut.

Split beans, empty bottle and vodka

I placed the split pods into a clean, dry glass bottle. When sealing something in a bottle for a long time, make sure that the bottle is completely clean and dry. If not, bacteria and gross crap will grow in the bottle instead of steeping an extract. Next, I poured in the vodka! I used Svedka because it’s my favorite cheap vodka, but any type would be fine…Except maybe a pre-flavored vodka…

I measured out 1 cup of vodka, but the bottle only fit ¾ cup. That’s still plenty of extract! I looked closely and saw some itsy-bitsy air bubbles had clung to the pods after I added the vodka, so I gently tapped the bottom of the bottle against the counter a few times to pop them. I could see where the extract was already seeping into the vodka, a light-brown color making its way through the bottle.

Extracts need to be kept in a cool, dark place as they steep. I hid my soon-to-be extract at the back of the pantry, behind a box of tea and a bag of flour. Now, we wait. Which is really hard.

Only 3 days in, I couldn’t stand the suspense. I pulled the bottle from the pantry and swirled it around a few times. I was proud to see that the vodka had turned a gorgeous amber color. And it will only deepen with time…..Check for the update in 26 days!

Split Beans
Split beans in bottle, vodka addition, and the steeping extract after 3 days

Recipe for DIY Vanilla Extract

4 whole Vanilla Beans
3/4 cup Vodka, non-flavored
1 small Glass Bottle with cap, clean and dry

Make an incision in each vanilla bean, running the entire length of the bean. Place split vanilla beans in a clean and dry glass bottle. Pour in vodka. Tap the bottle against another surface, gently, to pop any air bubbles. Seal the bottle and store in a cool, dark place for 30 days.

Update – I pulled the extract out of the pantry after 30 days of steeping but of course, forgot to add the actual update.

Here it is:


Look at that gorgeous color! I used some of the extract to make my homemade pancakes ! I could distinctly taste the vanilla in the pancakes, even after dousing them with maple syrup. So sweet and satisfying!


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