Homemade Vanilla Extract

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist January 6, 2013

bottle of homemade vanilla extractOne of the most lovely gifts I received this holiday was from my friend Lindsay, a member of the local buying club I coordinate.

She gave me this beautiful bottle of homemade vanilla extract shown in the picture to the right that she had made herself.  I was very touched and not just because I really love handmade gifts. Anyone who spends any time in the kitchen knows that vanilla is one rather expensive flavoring that you use frequently in so many recipes!

In fact, vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron due to the intensive labor required to grow the vanilla seed pods.

Many types of vanilla beans

Lindsay took the trouble of preparing test batches of vanilla extract out of a number of different types of vanilla beans to decide which she thought tasted the best.

She eventually settled on “Near Gourmet Bourbon Planifolia Vanilla Beans” (splits) to make homemade vanilla extract as holiday gifts.  These are beans grown on the island of Madagascar just off the coast of Africa that have actually split on the vine or during the curing process.

Lindsay explained that many commercial vanilla extract manufacturers prefer “splits” because often they have a higher vanillin content – typically 0.23 grams of vanillin per 100 ML versus the usual 0.18 grams per 100 ML for high quality extract grade beans.

In addition, these vanilla beans have a higher moisture content than the typical beans used to make commercial vanilla extract - roughly 30% vs 20%.  If they hadn’t split at some point along the way, either on the vine or during the curing process, they would be considered gourmet grade.

Is organic vanilla necessary for homemade vanilla extract?

Lindsay’s research on vanilla beans also turned up some information on the production of vanilla beans.  She was delighted to learn that nearly all vanilla beans are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides for three basic reasons.

First, vanilla only requires a light composting of forest materials in order to thrive.  Secondly, vanilla has few insect or animal predators as long as it is properly cultivated.  And finally, the mostly small farms that grow vanilla do not have the resources for chemical treatments nor can they afford the expensive fair trade or organic certifications.

As a result, Lindsay decided that paying the premium for organic vanilla beans to make her homemade vanilla extract was simply unnecessary.

Go gluten free with your homemade vanilla extract

If you decide to make vanilla extract to give as a gifts, then I would recommend using potato vodka instead of regular vodka.  This will ensure a gluten free product that will be usable even for those friends and family who are avoiding gluten or have a grain allergy.

Lindsay was kind enough to share her homemade vanilla extract recipe with me and said it was fine to share as a blog as well, so here is the ridiculously easy method to make vanilla extract that will not only taste far better than even the organic stuff at the store, but will save you a bundle too!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Ingredients

1 large bottle of potato vodka
6 whole vanilla beans for every 8 ounces of vodka (where to buy)

Directions

Place the appropriate number of vanilla beans for the amount of vodka you are using straight into the vodka bottle and replace the cap.  Slicing each bean lengthwise first is fine but isn’t necessary and didn’t seem to make much of a difference to the flavor when Lindsay tested each approach.

Each bean should be fully submerged in the vodka.

Leave the vodka to slowly extract the vanilla flavor from the beans for at least 6 weeks in a dimly lit place like a cabinet that isn’t too warm.  Ideally, 8 weeks is required for the majority of the vanilla flavor to be extracted from the beans.  Gently shaking the bottle occasionally will help move the process along.

After 6-8 weeks, carefully remove the vanilla beans and pour the vanilla extract into small amber bottles (like these) if you will be giving to family or friends.  If making the vanilla extract for yourself, simply place the vodka bottle into the pantry (appropriately labeled) for your personal use.

Recipes to Try with Your Homemade Vanilla Extract

Thai Custard

No Box Vanilla Pudding

Halibut in Vanilla Spiced Brown Butter

Homemade Vanilla or Chocolate Pudding

Enjoy!

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Picture Credit

 

Comments (137)

  1. Cristin Hickman Ledbetter via Facebook August 4, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    I made this last Christmas for gifts and everyone loved it!! I received a few messages from friends and family recently saying they ran out and can hardly wait until Christmas…I guess I know what I am making again this year!

    Reply
  2. Ericka Eskam via Facebook August 4, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    I make 2 big 1.75 liters of rum with about 40 beans per bottle each year. I use a large Mason jar. When it’s cured, I pour into 4 oz glass bottles for easy gifts and I’ll never buy store bought again :-) Good luck! Olive Nation has great prices and beans.

    Reply
  3. Pam Cadwell Hall via Facebook August 4, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    My vanilla beans came in today and they added some Bourbon Planifolia Vanilla beans grown in Madagascar! Can’t wait to make my vanilla extract!

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Homemade Vanilla Extract | Food Stalker

  5. I am really looking forward to making vanilla as Christmas gifts! I’m seeing some complaints on Amazon about the amber bottles not being food safe and/or having an odd smell to them. Although ambiguously, some reviewers say the bottles aren’t suitable for food–only for “lab” purposes. Can anyone provide a different source for amber bottles?

    Reply
  6. What brand of Vodka do people recommend? I made some and maybe it’s because I’m not used to alcohol, but it’s very alcoholy tasting. (I do like to use a lot of vanilla)

    Reply
    • I liked the product I got with 3 Olives the best. I did not like the Absolut very well. Luksusowa was pretty good, and gets extra points for being potato vodka and labeled gluten-free. But, the finished extract had a bit of a sharpness to it. I had some 42 Below and it was pretty good. The Kedem (kosher grape vodka) had a bit of sharpness to it, but, hey, it can be used at Passover. I don’t think I’d spend the money on Grey Goose. I think the sharpness comes from the tannin in the vanilla pods. You don’t taste this in your finished baked goods.

      For rum I used Cruzan since that is what I’m drinking right now both light and dark.

      I used Cognac, and with Tahitian beans it is heavenly. Lovely delicate flavors. Think Creme Brulee,

      I had Even Williams bourbon. I didn’t love it. The vanilla flavor was weak in it.

      From my grand experiment and for my personal use I will probably always make a 2x-3x strength. I will probably also use a mix of planifolia (Madagascar/bourbon beans) and tahinis (Tahitian beans grown either in PNG or Tahiti) This will give me the bold flavors of the former and the sweet floral delicate flavors of the latter. I find that I much prefer my mixed bottles the best. 3 Olives will be my stand by vodka unless I think I need to start with something labeled gluten-free. I’m also looking forward to a new bottle of cognac, but this time much stronger!

      As far as some people asking about water – it depends on what the proof of your alcohol is. You want it to be in the range of 35-40% for food safety and maximum extraction. My guess is if you are using vodka that is 80 proof, then basically, 60% is water already since 40% is alcohol. If using straight grain alcohol, then by all means, use some water. Studies show that you extract more goodness at 35% than at 95-100% alcohol content.

      Someone mentioned saffron.com. I got my Tahitian beans there and 1/2 of my planifolia. Juan, the owner, is a trip. He is very passionate and knowledgeable. He explained to me why sugar is added, and there is a chemical reason for this. Basically, you add 1-2% to bind the vanilla and alcohol and it takes away the sharp flavor you might have from extraction. I used none – 2% organic cane depending on how the batch tasted. (I think i had 24 batches going at once last year). The sugar did improve some of the extracts immensely; others needed no sugar at all. For my 2 oz gift bottles this amounted to 1/16-1/8 t. per bottle. It isn’t as if it tastes sweetened or syrupy.

      Reply
  7. I go to the local Bourbon Street Liquor store by me and they always have higher quality Vodka and sometimes bourbon on sale. So this way I get a higher quality spirit at a reasonable price. Whatever you do , do not use cheap vodka or bourbon. (I made that mistake with my cranberry extract for syrup one time disaster) I have made vanilla extract with both vodka and bourbon both came out very good.Sarah love your blogs.

    Reply
  8. Tiffany, just keep adding a few more vanilla beans each time and you can have essentially a “perpetual” vanilla extract. I do this for about a year after which I set that quart aside with more alcohol and a little water, and then start a new one. This was I have a “back-up”, weaker but still quite useable extract while keeping a more potent one on hand for what I need.

    Reply
  9. I made my own for the first time a year ago. We found a recipe that suggested just leaving the beans in the bottle – stylish, if you use a clear bottle for gift-giving. But also, you just pour in some more alcohol now and then and refresh it!

    My question now, though, is how long that will work before I need to start over. I suspect my vanilla is getting weaker, but since it’s been gradual I haven’t even realized it! LOL!
    Tiffany\’s last post: Bye-Bye Kraft

    Reply
  10. Not sure if anyone else has mentioned this, but ALL spirits are gluten-free unless a gluten-containing product has been added to the product after the distillation process. If you really want to be safe about it you can use potato vodka or check with the particular company you’re buying from, but chances are if you have a reaction to a particular spirit you’re reacting to an additive (eg flavouring added after-the-fact) or it’s a placebo effect.

    Reply
  11. Tried several vanilla extract recipes.Have left ten to twelve Madagascar beans in 100 proof
    vodka for as little as one month and as long as three years and still can’t get that strong vanilla smell and taste I find when tasting Danncy brand Mexican extract.Got any ideas?
    Thanks: Guy Collier

    Reply
  12. What is the purpose of adding water to my vanilla extract, and how much should I add. I’ve had it brewing since April, when I saw someone mentioned adding water. Do I need to add some to it now? Thank you for your help.

    Reply
  13. All plain vodka is gluten-free, despite being made by wheat. The way vodka is made, gluten cannot stand up to it. There are two things vodka goes through to become vodka: 1) it is distilled, which is where the ethanol is formed from condensation, and 2) vodka is then filtered, (typically multipe times) to get any impurities that might have escaped the distillation process, which would help. The plethora of flavoured vodkas is what you have to worry about when it comes to gluten-free or not, since alcohol companies are not required to list what ingredients they use for the flavouring. Luckily, because vanilla extract requires a plain tasting vodka, then you don’t have to worry about that!

    Rain is a delicious organic vodka that would be great for vanilla extract. :)

    Reply
  14. I want to make this for Christmas this year. Now my ADD brain has to remember to start it eight weeks before Christmas.

    Reply
    • Make it now Chris K! It won’t spoil! Plus when the season hits, you’ll be way ahead of the umpteen to-do lists :0)

      Reply
  15. I really love this topic and I found that isn’t hard as I thinked to make your own vanilla extract. Really useful tips and tricks I discovered here.
    Very useful post Sarah . Thanks a lot. Your effort will be worth in my kitchen. ;)
    Sebastian\’s last post: Where To Buy Vanilla Bean

    Reply
  16. I’ve been making this wonderful vanilla extract recipe for years. What I’d REALLY like to make is the potato vodka! It’s the liquor that makes our vanilla extract and our tinctures so expensive.

    Reply
  17. Someone told me to use Gray Goose because it is very high quality vodka. I just read the back and it is made from wheat. Is there a major difference, aside from price? This was pricey, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to return it to the store and I don’t drink vodka so if there is no issue I’ll just use it. Any thoughts?

    Reply
  18. *24 beans will be a good amount for the 33 oz bottle of vodka.
    *I also make coffee, chocolate, lemon, orange, stevia, etc. extracts. Principles are the same. I grind the coffee to a chunky consistency, use cocoa nibs for chocolate, whole leaf stevia with a vanilla bean for the stevia, etc. To make almond extract you would want to grind the almonds in a coffee/spice mill and leave it for longer.
    *I do not use glycerine ever because it does not pull as much from the vanilla (or coffee beans,etc.) as alcohol does, with a little water added for water soluble compounds.
    *Bourbon or rum make an especially rich extract which complements the flavor of vanilla.
    *You can also use grain alcohol, if it is available (not legal here in Pa.)

    Reply
  19. Great post! I just bought a 1 L (about 33oz) bottle of potato vodka from Trader Joe’s. Do I need to put 24 pods or beans in the bottle? Thanks!

    Reply
  20. All vodka is gluten-free unless there is a gluten-containing additive for flavor. And I cut my beans into 2in sections for better extraction. Less work than splitting them. It is also an important recommendation to use organic vodka. Pesticide-free and a better working environment for the laborers, and isn’t that what we all want? :-) We made extract for Christmas gifts this year and it was a big hit! We’re definitely done buying it from the store. Such a HUGE savings!
    Sarah\’s last post: Taking a KitchenAid to a whole new level!

    Reply
  21. What the heck is potatoe vodka?? :) I don’t drink alcohol, so never go in liquor stores. Does vodka say on the label what it is made from ( like potatoes or grapes)? I can’t imagine any liquor store selling “potatoe vodka”! Where does one get it?

    Reply
  22. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for the post, it is very timely! I bought vanilla beans but haven’t finished the last store bought bottle of vanilla extract but soon . . . One thing I was told, though I should have thought of it right away, is that the vanilla beans should be stored in glass and preferably in dark glass or a cupboard.

    Thank you so much for your blog!
    Darcy

    Reply
  23. Hi Sarah,
    This is an unrelated question, I hope you don’t mind. In a previous post you had mentioned that when you use baking soda in your bath water that it replaces soap and shampoo for that bath for you. I am looking to replace shampoo and body wash on a baby with very sensitive skin. How much baking soda do you put into your bath water?

    Reply
  24. I did not know you could use vanilla I thought you had to use Bourbon.. Probably because I do not drink and because “bourbon vanilla”

    I was just getting ready to make some and a post about it (I read bourbon in a recipe somewhere I am certain) so I am glad I read this timely post :-) Thanks!

    Reply
  25. Just this past couple weeks a handful of friends and I have been wanting to make vanilla extract and so the search began for the most economical bulk order we could find. Our research lead us to Saffron.com.They sell whole vanilla beans at the lowest price we’ve found so far…$19.95 for 1 pound (85 -100 whole beans) plantifolia Chef Quality (split whole beans) each 7″- 8.5″ long. I should clarify that they do sell in smaller quantities and have an assortment of vanilla beans to choose from. As a newcomer to ordering vanilla beans they’ve been very patient with my questions and quick to respond. We look forward to finalizing our order with them in the days to come. Just curious…has anyone else heard of this company or ordered from them?

    Reply
  26. I was worried about additives in store-bought vanilla; and I don’t like the taste of the home-made varieties. Alcohol was also a concern for me due to candida. I switched to powdered vanilla and won’t be going back. It is pure vanilla goodness and at a pinch you can make your own (google instructions).

    Reply
  27. @ Billie and Denise: Schramm Vodka is Organic, it is produced by Pemberton, a small distillery in British Columbia. Other brands of Potato Vodka include: Luksusowa, Monopolowa, Vikingfjord, Cold River, Glacier, Chopin (Chopin makes 3 varieties…rye, potato and wheat vodka so those with Celiac Disease need to be aware of cross contamination), Blue Ice (blue bottle is potato vodka…risk of cross contamination with wheat in their distillery), Superfly, Chase Marmalade, Vesica, and LiV. O.K. that list makes me sound like a bit of a lush, but I hope it helps reach your goal of making a great batch of Vanilla Extract.

    Reply
    • You can use any distilled spirit you want I suppose, I would be careful about the bourbon you choose though since it comes from corn mash and I would be concerned about GMO contamination. I have heard that Maker’s Mark claims not to use GMO corn though they are not certified organic. I usually use mostly vodka and sometimes gold rum. I particularly like the flavor from the occasional hit of rum in the extract.

      Reply
  28. Laura Waldo via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Potato Vodka can be purchased at most Liquor Stores. Schramm Vodka is Certified Organic, it is produced by Pemberton, a small distillery in British Columbia. Other brands of Potato Vodka include: Luksusowa, Monopolowa, Vikingfjord, Cold River, Glacier, Chopin (Chopin makes 3 varieties…rye, potato and wheat vodka so those with Celiac Disease need to be aware of cross contamination), Blue Ice (blue bottle is potato vodka…risk of cross contamination with wheat in their distillery), Superfly, Chase Marmalade, Vesica, and LiV. O.K. that list makes me sound like a bit of a lush, but I hope it helps reach you make a great batch of Vanilla Extract.

    Reply
  29. Deborah Bills via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I did 4 beans to 1 pint of vodka last year and it needed at least 6 months to steep before really being good. I am trying rum this year. I heard you could use rum too. Anyone tried the difference? You can ask for potato vodka from your local liquor stores they’ll know which ones are and aren’t.

    Reply
  30. Cindy Ellis Bauman via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Started making my own of this about a year ago. I will never go back to store bought! Homemade is so much richer and tastier! : )

    Reply
  31. Caitlin Campbell January 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I always use this as inexpensive Christmas gifts for our beloved teachers at semester break. We perpetually have a large bottle of rum with pods brewing on top of the cabinets and just refill our smaller bottle in the cupboard as needed. I have extracted with both Vodka and Rum and prefer Rum’s flavor. It is distilled from sugarcane, so I don’t think you would need to worry about gluten either.

    Reply
    • Good to know Caitlin using Rum to extract vanilla. My friend uses Rum for just about everything that calls for alcohol because it’s distilled from sugar cane. THANK YOU!

      Reply
  32. I have considered making vanilla extract, but stumped on where to find the beautiful dark glass bottles…Where can I get those? Also I have never heard of potato vodka…is there a link to where we can purchase both of these items?

    Reply
  33. Sarah Couture Pope via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Modern alternative Mama posted on the blog post that she calculated her price for homemade extract at $4 for a 4 oz bottle versus $10 at the store. Plus homemade tastes WAY better.

    Reply
  34. Sarah Couture Pope via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    If you buy the beans at the store they are expensive. If you buy online they are really cheap .. like 10% of the store price in some cases.

    Reply
  35. Jennifer Landress Waller via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    You can also top it off as it starts to get low … our beans re-steeped several times!

    Reply
    • I’ve also been doing this for years. I just use the cheapest vodka from Trader Joe’s (I think it’s about $4.99 or 5.99) and stick the vanilla beans (split first) in it.

      Reply
  36. I’ve been making my own vanilla for a year and a half but before that I used about a fourfold vanilla from an old job that was definitely stronger. So for my jar of extract, every time I used up a vanilla been I added it to the jar and just let them accumulate. There is a certain amount/percentage of beans you need to add to be a true extract and not just a vanilla flavored liqueur. Finally, recently I added about a tablespoon of vanilla bean powder (powdered whole vanilla beans) from Mountain Rose Herbs and my vanilla finally tastes like a true at least double vanilla extract. To that end I would recommend chopping up the vanilla into little bits to increase the surface area for extraction, especially if you are going to decant the end product into other bottles for use anyway. The flavor will be even better and stronger.
    Kelly\’s last post: BBB Holiday Apple Kuchen

    Reply
  37. Shannon Rice via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    We order ours from Mexico because the bottle we bought ran out and I was so sad, so we found it online. It’s a liter, and inexpensive, and oh my goodness, heavenly.

    Reply
  38. Freda Mooncotch via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Is it dark or clear? What gives it the dark color? And I noticed my Madagascar vanilla has sugar in it.

    Reply
    • You need the alcohol to extract the flavor. Glycerine works about half as well, literally. Don’t be afraid of the alcohol; it amounts to so small an amount in whatever you are consuming, and it bakes out of baked goods, steams out of hot beverages.

      Reply
  39. Elizabeth Proctor via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    @Sarah, when you say 6 – 8 whole beans for every 8 oz. vodka do you mean whole bean pods or is one suppose to remove the beans from the pod and use those individual whole beans? So basically, what I’m asking is, are you counting individual beans from a pod or the entire pod when you recommend 6 – 8 whole beans?

    Reply
    • Use whole pods. I split them with a knife (but you don’t have to), leaving the caviar intact, and drop it into the glass jar and add vodka to the top. when it gets starts to get low, I add another bean pod, or more, and top off with vodka. You can have a perpetual bottle of vanilla extract for the rest of your life.

      Reply
  40. Yep, I’ve also seen another one submitted a couple of years back by Modern Alternative Mama (that may be the first post at the top, David’sKate, who owns it, but not sure). That one says to leave it at least one month, preferably six. Haven’t tried it yet myself… and I do have some organic vanilla beans around… had them for a while, though, don’t know if they expire…

    Reply
  41. I noticed that the picture of your vanilla shows it in a dark bottle, and I now that I think of it, it has always come in a dark bottle when I buy it at the store. Is this important?

    Reply
  42. Kristin 'Heidt' Weigel via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    I use ciroc vodka which is made from grapes then buy organic vanilla beans on amazon and it is so much cheaper

    Reply
  43. I wanted vanilla beans for a rootbeer recipe over the summer, so, my mom and I made about a gallon of vanilla extract at the same time. wonderful stuff, you don’t need to put as much in your recipes either as it is more potent. Best place to buy the beans for price is on ebay!

    Reply
  44. Lainie Hendrix via Facebook January 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    I absolutely love the flavor I create when I make my own homemade vanilla extract. It is fantastic! I also find that it’s less expensive to make my own than to buy organic extract.

    Reply
  45. I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for 6 years now. I always use a good tasting vodka to produce the best tasting extract like Ketel One, so use a vodka that you like the taste of. I had no idea that vanilla beans are generally considered untreated, so thank you for the information Sarah! My source for buying organic vanilla bean pods is Mountain Rose Herbs, which are reasonably priced. I buy 1 oz. at a time (which is about 8 long pods in a glass tube) for $7.00. I just received my latest shipment last week, which included my restocking of vanilla pods. This is the link in case any of you are interested: http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/bulkherb/v.php#h_v_van_p

    Reply
  46. Hi Sarah,

    Love your blog and your website; thank you for so much thoughtful giving. I do not do any alcohol due to severe candida. Does the alcohol convert? I have found alcohol free vanilla and it is ok. Thoughts???? Thanks.

    Reply
      • Ditto Sarah, but also the glycerine does not extract nearly as much flavor from the beans as alcohol does. It should be just fine as you describe. Plus, you are only using a small amount (such as, 1 Tbsp. in a half gallon of egg nog-that doesn’t amount to a lot!)
        I’ve been making double strength vanilla for years-by the quart! We love it!

        Reply
        • hey maureen.. what is your recipe for double strength?? we like a good strong vanilla at our house also and want to make sure that if we age it for months, we make it right the first time..

          -jason and lisa-

          Reply
    • Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama January 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      If you buy in bulk, no, they’re not. At a normal grocery store you’re looking at maybe $2 per bean, which is very high. I usually pay $0.20 – $0.35/bean when I order online. That makes it very affordable. I think I calculated that I spend about $1 per 4-oz. bottle, vs. $4 – $10 I’d pay at the store. Way cheaper.
      Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama\’s last post: Why Setting Goals May Not Be Your Best Approach

      Reply
  47. t recipe I have from another blog let’s hers sit 5-6 months. has anyone done both 6-8weeks and 5-6 months? which did you like better?

    Reply
    • Most definitely at least 6 months. I did taste tests along the way, and the flavors deepened and changed each time. It was still quite raw at 8 weeks. After about 7 months, I put fresh beans (about 1/2x worth) into each gift bottle and put in my extract. This way it will continue to get stronger and more developed as time goes on. I ended up with about 150 bottles of varying size.

      Reply
  48. Hi Sarah, first of all love your work… I’m a long time reader but not much of a commenter!

    Anyway this looks fantastic and will definitely give it a go :)

    Reply
  49. Since potatoes are on the list of the dirty dozen…should we worry about using an organic potato vodka? Or is there something in the process of being prepared for and becoming alcohol that negates the need?

    Reply
    • My question exactly. Is there such a thing as organic potato vodka? And how much is “one large bottle”? I don’t buy alcohol and I don’t know what “large” would be.

      Reply
      • The vodka is always at leach triple distilled, but you can buy vodka that is distilled 5 times. This removes grain residue as well as that from potatoes. Even with gluten intolerance in my house and using *a lot* of vanilla (double strength), the regular vodka never made any difference. If you are concerned however, there is also grape vodka.

        Reply
        • I bought Rain organic potato vodka which was about $25 for less than a liter. Square One is more expensive but is grain based. I was told that it doesn’t matter with vodka if you are gluten free or not since the distillation takes out the issues. My friends who have celiac dink vodka without problems.

          Sarah, some people use 1 cup of alcohol with 3 beans. However, you use 1 cup for 6 beans. Why the difference?

          Reply
          • According to the USDA to be labeled as 1x “pure vanilla extract” the product must have 13.35 oz (I believe) per gallon of 35-40% alcohol. So, it really depends on the weight and length of your beans to determine how many you will need per cup of alcohol. Therefore, 6 beans per cup for a Madagascar (planifolia) is about right.

            I also made some with a “Tahintis” (Tahitian vanilla) and I got over 200 beans per pound with those. So, to make 1x strength I needed 1.5 beans per oz of booze.

            I used light rum, dark rum, grain vodka, kosher grape vodka, and potato vodka, bourbon, and cognac with both varieties of vanilla beans, I also experimented with 2x and 3x strengths. The 3x (triple strength) actually got a bit viscous – like a thin syrup. It is amazing!

  50. What’s the best way to purchase the vanilla beans? Where do I look? Also, can you share the names of some potato vodkas?

    Reply
  51. There is no such thing as a stupid question. I am not an expert by any means but in most applications you only use a small amount of vanilla extract so there shouldn’t be a problem for kids consuming the extract. Also true vanilla extract sold in stores contain alcohol, its just not labeled as vodka and most people don’t give store bought vanilla a second thought.

    Reply
  52. I know I’m going to sound stupid, but here it goes ;)
    So the vodka becomes vanilla extract? Is that safe for kids? Like flavoring non-baked goods?
    Sorry for my silly question :)
    Julie

    Reply
    • If you look at the ingredients label of real vanilla extract you get from the store it will say it is something like 98% alcohol.
      This recipe pretty much gets you the same stuff as from the store, both have alcohol in them.

      Reply
      • The alcohol is what preserves the extract. Without it, you would have to keep your extract in the refrigerator and it wouldn’t last for nearly as long! With the alcohol, the extract is good for a few years, just stored in the pantry :) You can extract stevia in almost the same way.

        Reply
        • This is only part true, actually a serendipitous side benefit. The alcohol is what pulls the phenols from the bean into solution. I use 25% water in addition to the alcohol in order to extract water soluble flavonoids as well. And I *always* split & scrape the beans-it does make a difference in my experience, and I like the seed specks in some of the things I make with it.
          My favorite source is Beanilla, where I can purchase the Madagascar beans, plump and juicy, for about $56/#

          Reply
          • You usually only use a small amount of vanilla in recipes by comparison to the other ingredients. So any alcohol is really negligible and will cook/bake out leaving only the flavor behind.

  53. ( : David'sKate : ) January 6, 2013 at 3:10 am

    We did this very thing for gifts this year! It was fun and easy and well received! And we’re also enjoying the less expensive REAL vanilla ourselves! Vanilla seemed to be the gift to give this past year as we received two large bottle of the fake stuff!

    Reply

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