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Homemade Vanilla Extract

 

Produce your own Homemade Vanilla Extract with just two ingredients – it’s the easiest recipe you’ll ever make. So much better than store bought and definitely more economical.

Make a large batch and throughout the year you’ll have the perfect gift for home cooks.

For me, Homemade Vanilla Extract is worth making just to take in the wonderful aroma of vanilla – it’s heavenly. No wonder vanilla is so widely used in perfumes.

Three bottles of homemade vanilla extract with Christmas ribbon, string and a pen.

Although this recipe works in as little as six weeks, if you are patient the wait is definitely worth it. After six months the result is far better than any expensive store bought vanilla.

Once you’ve made your own, you won’t go back to buying vanilla extract.

Mass produced extracts often contain added sugar and colouring to compensate for the weaker vanilla taste and lighter appearance. When you make your own extract, you can be in control of the depth of flavour. You will notice the difference in your cooking.

A bottle of newly made vanilla  showing clear liquid just starting to colour next to a bottle of dark vanilla extract.

Here at the Kitchen Shed I make many of my pantry ingredients for baking and cooking. As a result I always have a stock of products including chilli sauce, jams, stem ginger and vanilla extract.

When selling our homemade marshmallows at food fairs, Vanilla is always one of the most popular flavours. Customers tell us they love the “proper vanilla taste” and are generally surprised to learn I make the extract myself.

What Do I Need ?

Vanilla – you will need 5 or 6 Madagascan Bourbon vanilla pods for a traditional vanilla flavour. I use Extract Grade / Grade B pods as they have a lower moisture content than Grade A pods. This lower moisture content delivers a more concentrated flavour.

A bundle of Grade B Vanilla pods.

Grade A vanilla pods, with their relatively higher moisture content, are better suited to cooking and baking. If you do use Grade A pods to make extract, I suggest using 7 or 8 pods.

Extract Grade / Grade B pods are easy enough to get hold of. Most recently, I bought some online from Slofood.

Alcohol – Vanilla extract can be made with different types of alcohol but vodka works best because of its ‘neutral’ taste. I don’t go for the most expensive Vodka brands but I do actively avoid the cheaper end of the market. Whichever brand you use, it does need to be 40% strength by volume, 80% proof.

Bottles or jars – sterilise your bottle or jars using the hot cycle of a dishwasher.

A bottle filled with five pods.

How To Make Homemade Madagascan Vanilla Extract

Take a sharp knife and split the vanilla pods lengthways along their centres.
You may have to trim some pods if they’re too tall for your jar or bottle. You don’t want any pods exposed to the air or they will go slimy and ruin your extract.

Vanilla pods on a chopping board being split open with a knife.


Place the vanilla pods in your container and then fill it with alcohol. Make sure all the pods are submerged.

Alcohol being poured into a bottle of pods through a funnel next to a bottle filled and lid closed.


Store in a dark place and shake once a week.
Leave for at least 6 weeks – the flavour will mature and grow more intense over time. I like to leave mine for at least 6 months, although 12 months is even better.

A Kilner bottle with pods and alcohol next to a bottle of matured vanilla extract.

Decant some of your vanilla extract into a small bottle so it’s easier for everyday use. You can strain the extract if you wish but I prefer to keep all the bits of vanilla.
At this point you can top up your main jar with alcohol and add 1 or 2 more split vanilla pods. As before, make sure all the pods are submerged.


Don’t forget to give your topped up extract a shake every once in a while.
Once it’s ready, use your homemade vanilla extract in the same quantities as store bought vanilla extract.

Why are Vanilla pods so expensive ?

Growing vanilla is a very long and labour intensive process. Did you know the flowers on the Vanilla orchid are typically pollinated by hand ? To make the process even harder, the flowers only last a day so must be pollinated the day they bloom.

After pollination it’s nine months before there is a fully mature green vanilla pod. And then, there’s a few more months wait as the picked pods are cured. All of this before being exported and made ready for us to buy.

Which variety of vanilla pod to buy ?

Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla contains high amounts of vanillin and therefore it has the most pronounced vanilla flavour. Traditionally used in commercially produced vanilla.

Indonesian Vanilla is known for its smokey quality, and tends to be lighter in colour.

Tahitian Vanilla has soft floral notes.

What is the difference between single-fold and double-fold vanilla extract ?

This simply refers to the ratio of vanilla pods to alcohol. The recommended amount for single-fold is 4 pods to 250 ml, double-fold is 8 pods to 250ml.

The extract you buy is usually single fold but you would find double fold in a professional kitchen. I use five or six pods to 250 ml which delivers a stronger flavour without the full expense of a double fold.

How To Store

Store your Homemade Vanilla Extract away from sunlight in a cool dry place.

Three bottles of differing sizes of homemade vanilla extract.

How Long Does Homemade Vanilla Last ?

In theory, almost indefinitely but homemade vanilla extract is best used within three or four years.

More Homemade Gift Ideas…..


Homemade Christmas Mincemeat


Caramelised Red Onion Jam


Homemade Pickled Red Cabbage

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

Produce your own Homemade Vanilla Extract with just two ingredients – it’s the easiest recipe you’ll ever make. So much better than store bought and definitely more economical. Make a large batch and throughout the year you’ll have the perfect gift for home cooks.
5 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate this Recipe Save Recipe
Course: Baking
Cuisine: International
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 50
Calories: 12kcal
Author: Sarah James

Equipment

  • A funnel
  • 1 sterilised jar or bottle large enough to hold the quantity you’re making

Ingredients

  • 250 ml Vodka
  • 5 to 6 pods vanilla pods per 250 ml 1 cup vodka

Instructions

  • Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla pods lengthways along their centres.
  • Trim the pods if they are too tall for your jar / bottle. The important point is to keep the vanilla pods submerged in vodka. If they are exposed to air they will become slimy and ruin your extract.
  • Place pods in your jar and cover with vodka.
  • Store in a dark place and shake once a week.
  • Leave for at least 6 weeks – the flavour will mature and grow more intense over time. I like to leave mine for at least 6 months.
  • Decant into a small bottle for easy use. You can strain the extract if you wish but I like to see all the tiny bits of vanilla.
  • If you decant off any extract, ensure the pods in your main jar remain submerged. You can top up your jar with vodka and add 1 or 2 more split vanilla pods.
  • Don’t forget to give your topped up extract a shake every once in a while.
  • Use your homemade vanilla extract in the same quantities as store bought vanilla extract.

Notes

  • I find it best to remove the vanilla pods from the extract when I’m gifting bottles. Otherwise, your recipient will be responsible for topping up the alcohol so the pods are not exposed to the air.
  • Calories are per teaspoon of Vanilla Extract.
  • Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
Calories: 12kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 1mg | Iron: 1mg

 

Pin For Later

Three bottles of homemade vanilla extract with Christmas ribbon, string and a pen.

I’m entering this recipe into The Spice Trail from Vanesther at Bangers and Mash, the theme this month is Vanilla and is hosted by Solange at Pebble Soup

And because it’s made from scratch, I’m linking it to Made With Love Mondays hosted by Javelin Warrior

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Recipe Rating




Sugar Free Mini Cheesecakes - Tales From The Kitchen Shed

Monday 5th of December 2016

[…] 1 teaspoon sugar free vanilla extract or home-made vanilla extract […]

Solange at Pebble Soup

Friday 30th of May 2014

What could be more perfect than Vanilla Extract for a Vanilla challenge. Thank you for entering the Spice Trail x

sarahj

Monday 2nd of June 2014

You're welcome Solange, Vanilla is definitely the star in this recipe so I couldn't resist entering it into the challenge.

Sarah Marquis

Wednesday 28th of May 2014

I never knew you could make vanilla extract, let alone it being so simple! Love the idea of making as gifts too!

sarahj

Monday 2nd of June 2014

I was surprised how easy it was & it does make the perfect gift :-)

Keep Calm and Fanny On

Wednesday 28th of May 2014

Lovely idea, I usually have some vodka kicking about that's been a present, I'm not a vodka drinker, so always looking for ways to use it! Just need to track down some good quality vanilla and I'm off! Thanks...

sarahj

Wednesday 28th of May 2014

You're welcome, glad you've found a good use for your vodka! That's the beauty of making your own extract, you can add good quality vanilla pods.

Javelin Warrior

Tuesday 27th of May 2014

I've never tried to make my own vanilla extract before, but I've wanted to because I'd read how easy it is to do. This is a wonderful idea and perfect for a homemade gift, too...

sarahj

Wednesday 28th of May 2014

Definitely recommend making some, it comes with a warning tho! You might not want to give it away :-)