Have you ever thought about making homemade vanilla extract? Here’s what you need to know!
Tis almost the season for holiday baking. At our house, this ultimately means stocking up on all things for classic Thanksgiving and Christmas treats. One thing that most of these sweet recipes have in common is vanilla extract. Even outside of holiday baking, I use up an alarming amount of vanilla extract in warm drinks, oatmeal, yogurt, the list goes on.
This is why I snagged a few loose vanilla beans a local store had on sale recently. In the town I live in, vanilla beans aren’t an everyday item, and I knew making homemade vanilla extract was simple. So, grabbing those beans, I decided I would give it a shot. The cost of the beans themselves was the same price as a bottle of extract, but I knew it would be worth it.
A Brief History of Vanilla
Vanilla, while not native to the United States, did come from North America. It was used as far back as the 1500’s by the Aztecs in Mexico. In fact, according to Nielsen Massey’s “History of Vanilla,” it was only grown in Mexico at this time, and was often used as a form of payment or tribute. I would gladly accept payment in the form of vanilla beans, wouldn’t you? Eventually, the vanilla bean made its was out of Mexico, and is now grown in Madagascar, Tahiti, and other parts of Indonesia. This gives us some insight into why vanilla beans are so pricey!
A Method to the Extract
To extract literally means to pull or draw out, and that’s exactly what vanilla extract and all other types have done. The flavors of herbs, fruits, and nuts are pulled out by alcohol and preserved for use in all kinds of recipes. This also prolongs the use of things like vanilla beans. A bottle of pure vanilla extract will get you much further than one single bean included in a recipe. Who wouldn’t want to make the warm flavor of homemade vanilla extract go further?
The recipe for most homemade vanilla extract (and other flavors) is similar. While some people use a pressure canner to speed up the extract-making process, I prefer to Set-It-And-Forget-It method. Either way, both methods involve vanilla beans (or mint leaves or citrus peels) soaking in vodka for 6 weeks with occasional shaking. This draws the flavor and oils out of the beans or peels and creates tasty extracts for all of your baking needs.
Vanilla Beans (2-3 for a small/medium jar)
Orange Peels (from one orange)
Fresh Mint Leaves (Washed)
Clean glass jars
Vodka (80-90% alcohol, inexpensive brand)
Funnel (I love these silicone ones!)
Homemade Vanilla Extract (Orange and Mint too!)
- Cut vanilla beans in half or into pieces and place in jar. (For mint extract, tear leaves and place in jar, and for orange extract, peel skin from orange and place in jar.)
2. Use a funnel if your bottle neck is small, and fill bottle to the top with vodka. Gently shake bottle. Place in a cool, dark place for six weeks.
3. A few times a week, gently shake your extracts, and place them back in their cool, dark place.
4. After 6 weeks, strain extracts off and place in clean, glass jars. Store in a dark cabinet if using clear glass. And that’s it!
And feel free to make plenty to give away as gifts! Homemade vanilla extract is a perfect Christmas or birthday gift for someone who enjoys baking or who simply loves the warm flavor of vanilla! You can snag these super cute (and free) Christmas Gift Tags from Lilies and Life. I’d love to know if you’ve tried making your own extracts and what types you’ve tried. Have a great week!