When I learned how to make vanilla extract a few years ago, I realized I had the perfect One Size Fits Most gift. It’s appropriate for anyone from 10 to 100, male or female, as long as they
a) love baking, or
b) love baked goods (and have someone who bakes for them)
Now, vanilla extract is readily available, and can be found in almost everyone’s cupboards already. BUT once you learn how to make vanilla extract you can make a superior product for less money in your own kitchen at very little cost that will wow and bless all your friends this Christmas.
At the risk of being tacky, I’m gonna answer all your questions about how to make vanilla extract–those of you who will receive a bottle from me please dis-remember this post because my mom taught me it was poor taste to tell someone how much you spent on a gift!
Can you really make your own vanilla extract?
Yes! And it’s crazy simple. I think the only reason more people don’t do it is ’cause it can be a little tricky sourcing the ingredients. That’s why I’m gonna tell you exactly where I got everything.
What do you need to make vanilla extract?
1. vanilla beans
3. a bottle to put it in
What kind of vanilla beans do you buy?
To my understanding, there are three main types of vanilla beans. I use the Madagascar or Bourbon bean as it creates the same flavor as you would normally get in the grocery store, and is in the middle price range. I purchase my beans in bulk from Amazon–if you order a whole pound at once, you have enough beans for YEARS (ask me how I know) and they cost less than $1 each. The beans are fragrant and moist, and keep for several years (again, ask me how I know!). Here’s a link to vanilla beans on Amazon.
What kind of alcohol do you use to make vanilla extract?
I use vodka because it gives me the most straight forward vanilla flavor. You can also use bourbon, but it’s gonna taste a little different than store bought extract. The key word here is “cheap”. Any brand will do. I buy it in the largest bottle my liquor store carries, when it’s on sale (I watch the ads). I got a 60 oz bottle for $17.82. For those who’ve never been in a liquor store or bought hooch before (like me) it’s clear, like water, and my bottle looks like this… Feel free to inform the cashier what you’re really going to do with 3 liters of vodka while you check it if it makes you feel more upstanding.
How do you bottle vanilla extract?
If you’re making the vanilla for yourself, you can use any old glass jar, or just throw the beans right into the vodka bottle! But if you’re gifting, you’ll want some nice little 4 oz. bottles. I bought beautiful, blue, recycled glass jars with corks one year, but ever since I’ve been using amber jars with nice little caps–this way we can use the jars over and over. Again, Amazon has great prices and selection–here’s a 12-pack of the kind of jars I use.
How to make vanilla extract:
Pay close attention ’cause this is really simple.
- Cut one vanilla bean in half, then in half again lengthwise. (scissors work great)
- Put all four pieces into your 4 oz bottle.
- Fill bottle with Vodka
- Cap bottle, label, and wrap ribbon or raffia around for gifting
Is that it?
Well, the vanilla needs to steep for 4-6 weeks, with an occasional shake. The first year I made my extract in October so it was all ready for my recipients to use in their holiday baking. I’ve not been quite on top of things since then, so I just tell people to save it till January. They don’t seem to mind and like feeling involved in the process (“Shake it once in a while!” I tell them. They think it’s so cool). I also tell my friends that when the bottle gets half empty, they can add more vodka and let it set for a few more weeks to get the most out of the beans.
How much does it cost to make Vanilla Extract?
Well, if you buy your beans in bulk, your vodka on sale, and the jars by the case, this is the breakdown of what you may end up spending per bottle…
Jars – $1.00
Beans – $0.75
Hooch – $1.15
Total – $2.90
I know — it’s almost laughable. A comparable product (pure, without any additives) goes for $10-13!
The best part about making and gifting your own vanilla extract is the thanks you’ll receive for the rest of the year, ’cause this stuff really is superior to your run-of-the-mill extract. Your friends will adore it, savor it, save it for their favorite recipes, and thank you every time they see you for this little bottle of elixir. (If the raving seems to be over the top, it may be because they drank the whole thing right beffore they called you, but I have yet to have that happen.)
If you want to make a large batch of vanilla extract for your own use, you can just put 12-15 beans, snipped lengthwise, straight into a 60 oz bottle of Vodka, or pour it into a quart jar or two.
I’ve made the making and gifting of vanilla extract a yearly tradition at our house for many reasons, but my favorite thing about it is that it’s something my kids can do with me. My kids snipped the beans all by themselves this year while I poured the vodka in the bottles. We did this together with friends a while back and between 3 kids (ages 5-7) with scissors and two mommies we made 30 jars of vanilla in 20 min. And boy, did we all smell good when we were done!
This is just one of the many ways I simplify Christmas so that I don’t get totally stressed out during the holidays. I’m sharing all my secrets with you this week ’cause I want you to have a peaceful Christmas, too!
This post includes affiliate links. Using a bloggers affiliate links to amazon or elsewhere for your shopping is a great way to bless your blogging friends at Christmas time!
What’s your best strategy for simplifying Christmas? Ya’ll have been sharing some great ideas in the comments – I appreciate all the feedback and I’m takin’ notes!