Vanilla Extract!

The tandem post will be up later this week. I told Nance to just back off, because I’ve been meaning to put up a post about making your own vanilla extract for a really long damn time, and I need to just get it DONE. But making your own vanilla extract is so so so easy, you need to do it! Like, right now!

What you need:


You need to ignore how shitty these pictures are, for one. I threw my bottle of vanilla extract together in 5 minutes this morning, and wasn’t very careful about making things look pretty, so. Just deal with it.

I make my vanilla extract in bulk because I have plenty of room to store it, making it in bulk ensures that I’ll always have some on hand, and if I make it in bulk, I don’t have to do it again any time soon. So I use a 750 ml bottle of vodka, and a 375 ml bottle of dark rum. I got Absolut vodka and Bacardi rum. Are these good brands? I have NO clue. It wasn’t overly expensive, and that’s what matters – those are the brands I always use, probably because I recognize the names.

Also, obviously, you need vanilla beans. They don’t show up in the picture very well, but I got my beans – they’re Madagascar Vanilla Beans – from Olive Nation. They shipped quickly, arrived in a vacuum-sealed bag, and were nice, big fat vanilla beans. You can find perfectly good vanilla beans for less if you Google around, I’m sure, but that’s what I used and who I plan to use again in the future. You need 12 vanilla beans per 750 ml bottle. (Penzey’s is also a good place to get your vanilla beans.)

First thing, although I didn’t get a picture of this, you’re going to need to make room in the vodka bottle for the vanilla beans. So I dumped about 1/2 cup of the vodka into a (clean) canning jar which I covered and put in the cabinet, because I didn’t want to toss it or use it for cleaning (did you know you could use vodka for cleaning? That’s what I hear!) or give it to the cats (oh, cool your jets. I’m not feeding alcohol to my cats. They’re mean drunks.)

Next thing, using a sharp knife and a cutting board, cut your vanilla bean down the center, leaving it attached at the top.


Then pop it in the bottle.


Do the same with the remaining 11 vanilla beans.


If you want to (and don’t want to buy the bottle of rum), you could stop here. I like adding a bit of rum to the bottle, though, because it makes it a bit darker. I mean, your extract is going to get dark on it’s own as it ages, but it doesn’t hurt to have the rum add a bit of color to the whole shebang. All I did was fill the bottle the rest of the way up with rum. How much you add is up to you, but I’d guess that I added around 1/4 c, maybe a little less.


Then shake your bottle, mark the date on it (I use a sticker on the bottom), and put it in a cool, dark place. Every time you happen to catch sight of the bottle (or every few days), grab it, shake it up, and put it back. In two months, you’ll have the perfect bottle of vanilla extract! You can leave it in the big bottle (like I do) or you can divide it up into smaller bottles. Whatever works for you works for me!

This is the bottle I’m currently using, and according to the sticker on the bottom I made it in February 2011. I go through vanilla fairly quickly, though, so I’m sure the only reason I’m still using a bottle I made 3 years ago is because I made several bottles at once.


So, there you go. That’s how I make it – you don’t have to use vodka and rum, you could use bourbon or brandy or even just all rum. The vodka/rum combo is what I always use, because it’s what I like.

I’ll include the proportions so that you can make a 2-ounce bottle of vanilla extract, if you prefer. I know not everyone goes through vanilla as quickly as I do!

Vanilla Extract!
: Extract!
  • Making a 2-ounce bottle:
  • ¼ c. (less 2 T.) vodka (use the full ¼ c. if you're NOT using the rum)
  • 2 T dark rum (optional)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ---------------------------------
  • Making a 750 ml bottle:
  • 750 ml vodka
  • 375 ml (or less) dark rum (optional)
  • 12 vanilla beans
  1. Making the 2-ounce bottle:
  2. Pour your vodka into a small jar or bottle
  3. Cut your vanilla bean in half, leaving it attached at the top
  4. Place cut vanilla bean in jar with vodka
  5. Add rum (if you're using it)
  6. Shake well, keep in a dark, cool place, and shake every time you see/think of it. Let age for about 2 months before using.
  7. --------------------------------------------------------
  8. Making the big bottle:
  9. Remove ¼ - ½ c. vodka from the 750 ml bottle, to make room for the vanilla beans; set aside.
  10. Cut all 12 vanilla beans down the center, leaving them attached at the top.
  11. Place the vanilla beans in the bottle of vodka
  12. Fill the bottle the rest of the way up with dark rum, if you're using it. Otherwise, fill it up with the vodka you set aside.
  13. Shake well, place in a dark, cool place, and shake it every time you see the bottle, at least every few days.
  14. Let age for 2 months before using. (When it's done aging, you can leave the extract in the big bottle or separate it into smaller bottles.)