Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is such a necessary staple in every kitchen. If it’s not…it should be! There’s nothing more versatile to use across the board than this extract. Buying the pure extract, especially in large quantities, can break the bank! There is a cheaper option, but fake fillers, colors, flavors, etc that go into the imitation “extract” does a body no good!

Not only is pure, genuine vanilla versatile in cooking, it is also versatile in its health benefits! It can be added to homemade creams, cleansers, shampoos, etc. It is great for the skin, hair and nails in cleansing and exfoliating. It has antioxidant properties when consuming internally, is an anti-inflammatory that can be beneficial for the liver and for external skin wounds. It helps lower cholesterol, calms the nerves when used in aromatherapy and has even been touted as a tool in the aid of weight loss. It calms the stomach and can aid in digestion, and last but not least, alleviates sore throats and respiratory symptoms. That’s a lot of good, for such a skinny bean! All of these benefits are completely negated when buying the fake stuff!

Because of the exorbitant prices of pure vanilla extract on retail store shelves, I decided to make my own. Although the initial ingredients of the beans and the vodka seemed expensive, we have to remember: 1) the health benefits; and 2) the bottle of vodka is some of the cheapest edible alcohol you can buy, and one bottle will make several bottles of extract! So for just the price of those two ingredients, one is able to make a full 16 ounces of pure, unadulterated vanilla extract for about $11! I’ve seen 16 oz of pure extract around $25-$50 or more per bottle! You couldn’t buy it anywhere for only $11. Making your own is the answer!

Enough introduction and background. Let’s get to the recipe! I ordered these vanilla beans (pictured below) online, and when receiving them I noticed they were grown in Papua New Guinea! Those who know us, know that PNG holds a very special place in our hearts, having lived in the highlands of that country for 10 years. It makes this batch all the more precious!

Here’s the “recipe” per bottle:

EQUIPMENT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 small glass bottles with caps (I used cleaned and up-cycled 12-oz salad dressing bottles). Do not use plastic.
  • Some type of label (I used masking tape, but you could just use a sharpie and write directly on the jars, or use your imagination)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 10 vanilla beans, split (cut) down the middle with ends intact
  • 16 oz of 80-proof Vodka.

DIRECTIONS:

  • Pour 8 oz of vodka into each bottle.
  • Submerge 5 split beans into each bottle of vodka (trim if you have to, to make sure beans are completely submerged)
  • Cap and label the bottles and keep in a very dark, dry place for months. Some start using their extract after “steeping” for 2 months, but I would say a minimum of 6 months is better. (I’m leaving mine untouched in the back corner of a cupboard for one year.) When labeling, be sure to put the “start date” on the label, so you know how long that bottle has been processing.

DONE! How easy was that?!

Here’s a tip: After starting your first batch, set the calendar to make another batch in 6 months and keep it going on rotation, so you’ll always have pure vanilla extract on hand. This is definitely not an overnight pursuit. Pure vanilla extract, because of the high alcohol content, can keep for a very long time: we’re talking multiple years. It will make a great bartering resource with neighbors, family, and anyone else who has something beneficial to exchange.

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