I know that homemade vanilla is nothing new, I even made vanilla for Christmas gifts a few years ago. Well, everything old is new again, so I am making homemade vanilla extracts for gifts again this year. If you get a Christmas gift from me, you might want to skip this post, lest you ruin the surprise. 🙂
Making vanilla at home is easy. All you need is a jar, some vanilla beans and booze. In a couple of months you'll have vanilla extract.
You can go as simple or as elaborate as you want. A mason jar with a lid will work, as will low-grade vanilla beans and cheap booze. I do not recommend scrimping on the vanilla beans. I bought some beans that were grade "B" (recommended by a popular lifestyle blogger). They arrived dry, like dead twigs and impossible to slice vertically without possible loss of a couple of digits. I still used them, but I ordered grade "A" beans to combine with them. These arrived plump and easy to slice through. So in the end, my vanilla will be made from grade "A-" beans. I am giving myself the A- instead of a B+ because I doubled the amount on the second order!
You can go cheap on the vodka though, but I lucked out and found a good brand on sale. Anything 70-90 proof will work and it doesn't have to be vodka. I ran out of vodka half way through filling the last bottle so I added some brandy I was saving for my fruitcakes. I will save this bottle of vanilla for myself!
Buy the vanilla beans in bulk online for the best prices. You should plan to use ¼ pound of beans for each quart of vodka. I used 12 ounces of vanilla beans in 100 ounces of vodka. That is a bit more than necessary but I am hoping that the color will be richer by Christmas, since I got a late start.
Because I would be giving the vanilla as gifts, I wanted a nice bottle. I found these on Amazon and thought they would be perfect! And I was right.
This is my vanilla on Day 2 after bottling. You should allow at least 60 days after bottling before using the vanilla. The bottles should be gently shaken daily during the 60 day extraction period. You can also make another batch of vanilla when you finish the bottle by adding more vodka to cover the beans and waiting the 60 days.
I have seen recommendations to use double the amount homemade vanilla than a recipe calls for, because it is never as concentrated as store-bought vanilla. I play it by ear, rarely measuring vanilla anyway and always using more than the recipe states. I love vanilla.
I had fun making labels for my vanilla using the Egg Farm logo. I added a second label on the back with instructions.
Packaging for gift-giving was fun too.
The total cost for each 8.5 ounce bottle of vanilla ended up being $13.01. I have an 8 ounce bottle of store-bought vanilla in the cupboard with a price tag of $12.99 on it. I think I did pretty good. If you shop online, Amazon Prime is a real saver with free shipping on many bottles and bulk packages of vanilla beans. It is not too late to make home made vanilla Christmas gifts for the really special people in your life. They'll think of you every day they have to shake it, but can't use it!
- 12 ounces Grade A vanilla beans (or 7 beans per bottle)
- 96 ounces 70-90 proof vodka
- 12 8.0 to 8.5 ounce glass bottles with tight fitting lids
- Slit each vanilla bean pod lengthwise. Leave it connected on one end. Cut the pods in half and divide the pieces evenly amongst the bottles.Place the pieces of vanilla bean in the bottle. Using a small funnel, fill each bottle with vodka making sure to completely cover the beans. Seal tightly. Give the bottles a gentle shake once a day if you can but at least a couple times a week. Store bottles in a cool dark place until ready to use in 60 days.
- When the bottle runs out you can make new vanilla by adding vodka to cover the beans. I like to toss in a couple of fresh beans on the second batch.