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My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!

DIY Vanilla Extract

With as much baking as I do, I go through vanilla extract like nobody’s business.  I don’t give a second thought to buying most of my baking staples but I would always flinch a bit when I picked up an $8 bottle (Really?!  For that much?!) of vanilla extract from the store.  It seemed like I was doing so more and more frequently, and something had to give.  Thankfully making your own vanilla couldn’t be easier and it is far more economical than buying the store bought variety at an alarming rate.  Do you have five minutes?  Then you have time to make vanilla.  And now is the perfect time to make your own.  The holidays are fast approaching and bottles of homemade vanilla extract could make wonderful gifts for the bakers in your life.   How cute would these look tied with a little bit of holiday ribbon and a personalized tag?  Be still, my heart.

All you need are vanilla beans, cheap vodka (save the good stuff for drinking), and bottles or jars.  Really just about any container that closes will do.  Fill your containers with vodka, split vanilla beans, and add three beans per eight ounces of vodka.  Close your containers tightly and place them in a cool, dark location for about two months.  Shake occasionally.  That’s it!  Whenever I finish a bottle, I refresh with a new bean or two and refill with vodka.  I have three bottles in rotation in my kitchen and so far it has been just the right amount to keep me stocked.  Try it and your wallet will thank you.


Source: Use Real Butter

*The containers pictured here are from Sur La Table.  I buy vanilla beans on Amazon.

  • http://www.blognewblack.com Blog is the New Black

    A friend made this for xmas gifts last year- such a great gift!

  • http://abitchinkitchen.blogspot.com Maggie @ A Bitchin’ Kitchen

    I’ve wanted to try this for so long, but have always worried that the flavor wouldn’t be as intense as the kind you get from the store. I may have to give it a try though…I go through vanilla pretty rapidly myself, and it always stinks to have such a measly purchase add so much to your grocery bill!

  • http://thefrugalgirl.com Kristen@TheFrugalGirl

    Oh, those ARE really beautiful. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, and I think this is just the push I need to actually get off my rear and order some vanilla beans.

  • http://www.saborconna.blogspot.com/ Conna

    Annie,

    wonderful, thanks for the heads up !!!

    Have a nice day .

  • http://warmvanillasugar.wordpress.com/ Katrina

    So fun! This is a fab idea.

  • Annie

    Maggie, I had the same concerns but I can assure you it is as good or better than the store bought kind. Try it out!

  • Carina

    What a great idea! I like it as Christmas gifts. I’ve never bought vanilla beans before – do you prefer them from Mexico or Madagascar? It looks like those are the two primary options on Amazon. I’m always wary of buying food stuffs online – when you;ve ordered them, are they fresh? Thanks again for your blog! I love it!

  • Sara Bodine

    Hi Annie,
    Thank you so much for this idea. We have to buy for my husband’s co-workers (12 people) at Christmas time and it gets costly. I think this present tied off with a few homemade cookies would be an adorable. I’m online looking for these bottles. The store you indicated didn’t have the correct size so I’m on a different wholesaling website for glass. Do you know approx how many ounces your bottles hold? My options are many but looks like 8 or 16oz would be the best with the bottle shape. Any advice you can provide would be appreciated.

    Thanks!!!

  • Kris

    Love the idea of making homemade vanilla for Christmas gifts! Question though – my favorite vanilla (from Penzey’s) uses bourbon as the base. Would there really be a big difference when you cook with it?

  • Lakeisha

    Thanks Annie!!! You amaze me! My Vanilla Beans just came in yesterday from Amazon. You would have thought it was Christmas I was so excited – LOL! I appreciate how you share everything, you are so selfless! Thank You!

  • Aishah

    Is there another method of doing this without using alcohol?

  • Laura

    Have you noticed a difference, or have a preference between Tahitian vanilla beans or beans from Madagascar?

  • http://www.evabakes.blogspot.com Eva

    Thanks, Annie! I may have to try this soon.

  • Jenny

    What makes me flinch is how much vanilla beans cost. I LOVE vanilla bean everything but they are so spendy. I love your idea though! :)

  • http://successalongtheweigh.blogspot.com/ The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh

    Thanks for the tip on getting the beans on Amazon! Why I never thought to do that is beyond me! DER! I just ordered some to add to the vanilla I do that way too.

  • http://www.juliechiou.com/blog/ Julie Chiou at juliechiou [dot] com

    Thank you for this. I was just at the store the other day and I hated the price tag staring back at me! This is great, I can make a big batch and always have some on hand..you’re right about my wallet thanking me :)

  • http://4letters-food.blogspot.com/ Jhoanna Haynes

    I love vanilla, and this is a great way to save money.
    I am limited in resources when it comes to spices, so do you have any recommendations on an on-line website that has good but inexpensive spices? I’ve had to settle for skipping over any recipes that include vanilla bean b/c I can’t find it here.

  • Maggi

    A fabulous way to make sure that your vanilla is gluten free-, if you need to bake that way. ;)

  • Ruchita

    What a great idea! I have vanilla beans and vodka on hand, so I’m doing this today. Also, that first picture is gorgeous!

  • http://shopaholicscrapper.blogspot.com/ sasha farina

    is there any way to make ‘vanilla essence’ without alcohol. i can’t take any kind of alcohol.

  • Annie

    Not that I’m aware of. Vanilla extract (and other flavored extracts) from the store are also basically pure alcohol.

  • Annie

    As I mentioned at the bottom of the post, Amazon has great deals on vanilla beans.

  • Annie

    They are actually very cheap if you buy them in bulk, as I do on Amazon. I buy about 50 at a time – WAY cheaper than the ridiculous price at the store.

  • Annie

    No, but I’m not picky in that sort of way.

  • Annie

    Not that I’m aware of. Flavored extracts from the store are also essentially just flavored alcohol.

  • Annie

    Perfect timing!

  • Annie

    No, I think either is fine.

  • Annie

    No, I don’t remember exactly what size my bottles are. I would just buy whichever size you prefer.

  • http://www.anniescookinglab.com Annie @ Annie’s Cooking Lab

    What a great idea! I always cringe when purchasing an expensive bottle of vanilla extract too, this seems much more cost efficient. Plus, the bottles are super cute and it makes you sound like a hard-core baker if you make your own extract! :)

  • Annie

    I don’t have a preference on where they come from, but I think the retailer I use usually has Madagascar beans. Of course I would not recommend buying them online if they weren’t fresh or good quality.

  • http://kayssweetobsessions.wordpress.com/ Kristyn

    This is great, I’m definitely going to start doing this, because 8 dollars a bottle is costly!

  • http://www.elementalcustard.com Mara @ Elemental Custard

    I think this would make an excellent Christmas present! I usually end up getting my vanilla extract at Costco which is much more cost-effective but I think I have to try this.

  • http://www.sprigsofrosemary.com Sprigs of Rosemary

    I’m so delighted that you posted this today. I was just about to fire off my order for spice and such replacements. My eyes bugged out at the price of the double-strength stuff I like to use. A wallet-saver you are!

  • http://griffithland.blogspot.com Robbin

    I made this last year as a gift for the ladies I work with and for some friends and it was WONDERFUL! It was easy and fun to do. I got my bottles from Specialty Bottle Company and used the 4 ounce “Boston Bottles.” VERY CUTE! I actually used one whole vanilla bean (split into four pieces) per bottle and it was perfect. I ordered some really cute labels online, but they were expensive. If I were doing it again, I would make my own labels to keep the cost down. This is a wonderful DIY project, and really makes a thoughtful, practical gift. Just sharing my experience.

  • judy burke

    So many DIY sites say to only use dark colored bottles. I love your clear bottles. Safe to assume you haven’t experienced any problems ??

  • Annie

    If you just put it in a cool dark location, any type of bottle is fine. I wouldn’t use clear bottles if they caused problems :)

  • Mary R

    You can do the same thing with oil, too. Use a neutral tasting oil like grapeseed or something, throw maybe 2-4 beans into a half-pint jar (totally dependent on how strong/fresh the beans are…it also helps if you slice open the beans or chop them up a bit), cover with oil, and let it steep for 6 months or so, shaking the jar occasionally. If you have a blender that can fit a standard size jar (like most Osters), I’ve heard you can speed up the process by whizzing it up in the blender once every couple of days for a few weeks.

    The oil makes a nice finish with lots of fruit desserts, but it can be a nice touch to a surprising amount of savory applications, too. And it is really nice for massage…

  • http://tideandthyme.com Laura

    I’ve got some steeping away already. Definitely planning to gift some this year! Love it.

  • http://ex-scapes.com Katrina

    One of my mom’s friends was telling us how to do this this past weekend! I’m glad you posted, it reminded me of it! Do you remove the beans once you start using the vanilla after two months?

  • http://www.suchgreatblog.com/ Maya Laurent

    This is such a good idea for Christmas gifts! Adding it to our diy Christmas list! Thanks for the great idea.

  • http://www.blunderconstruction.com Halley (Blunder Construction)

    This is wonderful! My mom made a ton of vanilla from scratch recently.After I went through the bottle, I took the beans out scraped the pod.

  • http://Cakefairyblog@blogspot.com Cakefairyblog

    Great tip! I am definitely doing this xx

  • Jillian

    World Market has AMAZING prices on spices.

  • Annie

    I just leave them in there. It certainly doesn’t hurt, and in theory it might keep concentrating the flavor.

  • http://chocotuile.blogspot.com/ Jen @ Chocotuile

    You could make vanilla bean sugar too, and the best part of that is you can use the leftover bean for it! :) After the bean is scraped for, say, ice cream, put the sliced bean in a tub of granulated sugar. Give it a good shake, and let sit for a couple of days and voila, vanilla bean sugar! I’d love to give them away as gifts to friends, but none of my friends bake!

  • http://atthepatisserie.wordpress.com Ann P.

    COOL, I could try this with lemons and oranges, too then!

  • Annie

    Yes, I have vanilla sugar in my pantry as well :)

  • http://atthepatisserie.wordpress.com Ann P.

    What a great idea! I am sure many of my friends would love to receive one of these as a Christmas gift!

  • http://babybug329.blogspot.com Connie

    I love homemade vanilla extract. You are so right about it being much more cost effective, not to mention easy to make. However, my bottle isn’t as pretty as your 3 bottles. I just take a bottle of inexpensive vodka (glass, of course), pour out a shot’s worth, split some vanilla beans and throw them in. All the recipes I researched suggested I shake daily, but I just shake the bottle whenever I remember and have no problems.

  • Tykisha P.

    A friend of mine is Jamaican and after going home on vacation, he came back with tons of aged Jamaican rum. I popped a few split vanilla beans in a bottle of the rum about 4 weeks ago. It’s so fragrant…I cannot wait to use it!

  • http://Www.jackielopina.wordpress.com Jackie

    PERFECT timing! I just bought vodka last weekend to make homemade vanilla as gifts but was searching around for good (inexpensive!) bottles… The ones from Sur La Table are fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing your goodies:)

  • Eileen Pizer

    Hi Annie! I also make my own vanilla and have been for years. A dear friend told me about this about 12 years ago and I have doing this ever since. She said “Buy the smallest, cheapest bottle of brandy you can find and stick a vanilla bean in it. Let is sit for a couple months, shaking occasionally.” Well, over time the only thing I do differently is split the beans before I plunge them into the brandy. I but the biggest bottle of inexpensive brandy I can find and usually use 10 – 12 vanilla beans in that one large bottle. My baked goods are loved by all!

  • Kerry

    Do you use already split and scraped beans? Or always fresh unscraped?

  • http://www.ourfamilyfoodadventures.com Kristy

    I have never seen a recipe for vanilla extract before – but you’re right, making it homemade would be way easier on the wallet. I go through the stuff like crazy! Thank you!

  • http://mariadicapriowhite.blogspot.com/ Maria

    I’ve been making my own homemade vanilla for years. I love it. The only bad part is when you don’t start a new bottle before you run out of the current bottle. Then it really hurts the wallet!

  • Penni G

    I can’t wait to try it! I don’t drink alcohol so I wouldn’t even know what “cheep vodka” ia. haha Where did you get the bottles in your pictures? I LOVE them!!!

  • http://cakebaker35.wordpress.com/ Amanda

    I love home-made vanilla! I have been making it for more than 10 years or so.. I buy my vanilla beans in bulk and put in my bottles… I have vanilla sugar and I made lavender sugar as well… Love it!! :)

  • Tesei

    I am an absolute vanilla lover, I adore the taste and aroma it gives to food! I add at least a teaspoon to everyone of my recipes when I bake, so this is a most useful post to me! Thanks a lot :)

  • http://dailylifeofadesperate30somethinggirl Marieke

    I’ve been wanting to make my own vanilla extract for some time now. The cost over here is even higher than $8 (about twice that high). Seeing this makes me even more determined! Love the containers! Do you know how long you can keep it?

  • Lydia

    Thank you SO much for this post!! You got me totally inspired and I ordered everything I needed online last night! And I am definitely going to make some for Christmas gifts. Thank you for the wonderful idea and inspiration!

  • Patti T,

    Thia is such a great idea, I don’t know why I keep forgetting to do it. Like you I go through alarming amounts of vanilla.

  • http://certaintyincookiesandtaxes.wordpress.com/ galit

    Annie – you are amazing.

  • http://www.fortyninefiftyone.blogspot.com Amibeth

    I can’t wait to do this! I have recently found myself cringing when picking up that bottle for $8-$14 and I use a lot of vanilla extract! I can’t believe I never thought of this! Thanks Annie, once again!

    Also, I always thought Whole Foods had a really great prices on bulk spices… but now that I need more than just a couple at a time, I priced it out and its considerably cheaper at Amazon. :)

  • http://www.fortyninefiftyone.blogspot.com Amibeth

    OH, and your photos are beautiful, I love that first one especially!

  • http://cookingbride.wordpress.com Lisa @ The Cooking Bride

    You know, I saw an article about this recently and was floored that vanilla is vanilla infused vodka! I told myself I was going to try this soon and I still haven’t. I need to go do it now.

  • Jodie

    i tried this a couple of years ago and it was an epic fail. i did the same as another poster – took about a shots worth out of the bottle and added about 3 split beans. by the time it was ready to use… it smelled HORRIBLE and had so many floaty things in it… kind of nasty. any suggestions? would love to try it again… we use a LOT of vanilla at our house!! :)

  • Louise

    Try putting some star anise into vodka to make delicious anise extract too! Same premise. Anise flavored icing is delicious! Or make anise sugar. Infusing thyme or Rosemary into oils and vinegars make awesome gifts too.

  • Katelyn

    This is so cool! I would love to try this. Come Christmas break when I go home from school it would be just ready to use too…I can’t wait to try it.

    Do you know how much shelf life this has after the two months? I imiagine it’s probably a while, but I just want to be sure…

    Thanks and keep up the awesome recipies!
    -Katelyn

  • Annie

    It should keep indefinitely.

  • Annie

    I’m guessing that didn’t work out because the proportions were way off. My suggestion would just be to do what I outlined in this post. Good luck!

  • djandkellen

    I tried to find in your comments if you said where you got your bottles, but I didn’t see where you might have mentioned… Where’d you get the super cute bottles? Thanks! :)

  • http://linenandleaf.blogspot.com/ Robin D

    I would just like to double check something. Does how you seal the bottle matter? I notice that you used hermetic sealing bottles…what about a screw on lid – will this affect things?

  • Debra

    JRMushrooms has 7 Madagascar beans for a flat $9.99 – no shipping on beans – ever, and no tax. They are fast and the beans are fresh. The prices get better the more you order.

    It can also be made with rum or brandy, but I’ve always just used vodka. I’ve not tried this, but I’ve read that you can just replenish the alcohol when you run low without having to add more beans – at least one time around.

  • Annie

    No, as I mention in the post, any container that closes is fine.

  • Annie

    It’s at the bottom of the post :)

  • http://oursweetlifetogether.wordpress.com Cindee

    I love this going to start now

  • http://rayne-or-shine.blogspot.com Audrey

    Hi Annie,

    That is a great idea for making my own vanilla…I certainly didn’t know that vanilla extract is essentially flavored alcohol! I have one question though…being in Malaysia, the only kind of vanilla beans that I have access to are the ones that are already dried. Will they work for making extract, or is this only do-able with fresh vanilla pods?

  • http://spoonwithme.wordpress.com Jenny

    Hi Annie! Fabulous timing on this how-to. Normally I start thinking about food gifts to give people in December, and that would have been too late to start making this.

  • Annie

    I guess I don’t know the answer to that. I would assume you need the fresh pods but I’m not sure.

  • Anne

    I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for a couple of years now. During the holidays, I make a batch up for presents. People are always quite impressed!

  • Patience

    I think this is a great idea and bought everything I need to get started! But I do have a question! I am just worried about the lil seeds and other little floating things coming off from the bean into the extract. Did this happen at all? Thank you and you do a great job!

  • Annie

    Yes, the vanilla beans do get into it a bit but it doesn’t hurt anything.

  • Patience

    Ok, great! Thank you so much!

  • Krystal

    I am so so so excited about this post! I have been stewing on what on earth to make for Christmas gifts…this will be perfect!! One quick question, if you don’t mind…you said split the vanilla beans, what does that mean? Thank you so much, I am loving your blog!

  • Annie

    Just cut them in half lengthwise.

  • http://bravenewfood.wordpress.com Ginny L.

    I am so doing this. Could you possibly share the link for buying the bottles – I did a search for bottle on Sur La Table and aren’t seeing them. Thanks! :)

  • Annie

    I bought them in store so I don’t know if they are available online.

  • http://bravenewfood.wordpress.com Ginny L.

    oh okay, thanks! :)

  • Heidi

    Inspired by your post, I have 17 bottles in the works–they should be ready just in time for Christmas! I was wondering if you filter the extract before using (looks like there may be a bit of sediment in my bottles)? Thank you!

  • Annie

    I don’t but you certainly could if the vanilla bean seeds bother you.

  • Amber

    During the Thanksgiving/Christmas season you can also find vanilla beans at Costco. They are really a great deal, but you can only find them in the November/December. I’ve found them to be a good quality bean too.

  • Ginnette

    Hi, You just open the vanilla bean and leave the beans inside? When I made some I scraped the vanilla beans and put it in the vodka, but then it got a little dirty… I though you had to scraped it to get all the flavor out. I hope u understood my question :p

  • Annie

    I don’t scrape the beans, just split them and stick them in. I still get a bit of sediment but not as much as you would if you scrape them.

  • http://www.thelifeofawife.com/ sherri

    Thank you for posting this! I just put mine together today – barely making it in time for Christmas! :) I bought my beans from Amazon as you recommended; that was definitely the best deal I could find! And I also got the bottles from Sur La Table – you have wonderful suggestions and recommendations! Thanks, Annie!

  • Patience

    I bought them online and am almost positive they are the same ones! Just do keyword search at Sur La Table and enter Bormioli Pocket Flasks. I bought the 8.5 ounce ones and am pretty sure they are exactly the same as what Annie got! :-)

  • Joana

    What an amazing idea. I have a question, how long to you estimate to be the expiration date for this homemade vanilla extract? Thank you.

  • Annie

    I don’t think it really expires.

  • Joana Rosa

    Thanks!
    The reason why I asked is that I just like to recommend a usable date to those I offer some kind of ingredients :)
    Another question, do you think that a glass bottle sealed with cork will do? will it be well sealed as the bottles you use?
    Thanks again :)

  • Annie

    I honestly don’t know for sure, but I don’t see why it would be a problem.

  • Lyzz

    Hi Annie, how much sugar per bean should it be?

  • Annie

    I don’t know that there’s really a measurement. I just threw some sugar and vanilla pods in a jar.

  • Courtney Werth

    Would you mind sharing a link to the beans you buy, or the retailer on Amazon. There are so many choices, I don’t even know where to begin. Thanks!

  • Jessica

    I got about 125 Tahitian vanilla beans on eBay for $25 about six months ago, have made extract and baked with them, and I still have a ton left! The best thing is that when I bake with vanilla beans, I can stick the empty pod in my vanilla. Mmm :) I should probably get a second bottle going soon!

  • Debra

    Just wonder how you store the vanilla beans that you don’t use? I read on an Amazon review that the ones she didn’t use got moldy. I think she said she stored her leftovers in an airtight container. Just curious how you keep yours. Thank you!

  • Annie

    I keep them in the resealable bag they came in. They have never gotten moldy for me.

  • Beth

    Just tried this last night; I can’t wait to use it in 2 months!

  • Becca_holland

    I made this for my mum a couple of months ago but it still tastes really strongly of vodka and is still completely clear unlike yours in the picture… how long does it take to fully take on the vanilla flavour?

  • Anonymous

    Did you shake it up? And did you cut the vanilla beans? I have no idea why it would still be clear.

  • Becca_holland

    yes i shook it almost every day before i gave it to my mum on christmas day. and i split the beans before i put it in. i did use quite a strong vodka (the more expensive sort) that might be it?

  • Anonymous

    I really don’t think that should have effected it. Maybe something was wrong with the beans? Sorry, I’m out of ideas.

  • Patricia Welch

    for years I’ve made my extract. I’ve purchased beans from amazon & ebay, but the very BEST are a brand named RODELLE. They’re plump, big, and shiny. I buy them from Costco, they sell them around the Holidays. On Rodelle’s site, they’re much more expensive, than Costco.

  • ashley

    im making this and some of your syrups for my sister who is getting married in July!

  • Maggie

    I would say you could use the dried ones. The alcohol would rehydrate them.

  • Anonymous

    Annie,i picked up everything i need to start this project and then i was confused whether to sterilize the bottle or not.I picked up the exact bottle as you….and i dont know how go about it…!!HELP..

  • Anonymous

    No need to sterilize. Alcohol pretty well takes care of that.

  • dek2711

    Thanks so much Annie…!!

  • Soaplady123

    Several years ago I made homemade vanilla extract with some vodka my husband brought back from Russia. It was wonderful. My friend’s daughter just returned from Madagascar and BROUGHT ME BACK SOME VANILLA BEANS! Woohoo…guess what my plan is for them??

  • Soaplady123

    Scraping isnt necessary….the alcohol is a solvent that draws the flavor out. I also used a dark (antique brown pharmacy) bottle. The recipe I used several years ago recommended a dark bottle. I suppose keeping it in a dark place while steeping is the same thing. There is nothing like fresh, homemade vanilla!!

  • http://openid.aol.com/rnmom502 DENISE W.

    I just ordered 54 vanilla beans for $37.98, from JR Mushrooms (Amazon.com) as someone here suggested. When I picked up a bottle with what looked like one vanilla bean in it at Kroger, and saw the price was $11.99, I quickly put it back on the shelf, and decided to buy them online. Cannot believe anyone would ever pay $11.99 for one vanilla bean. Now I’m so excited to get them and start making my own vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, etc.

  • http://stephanavich.blogspot.com/ Stephanavich

    Cost Plus World Market sells Vanilla Beanns 2/$2.99 and its imported from Madagascar! Just throwing it out there in case anyone doesn’t want to wait for their beans to come in the mail.

  • http://openid.aol.com/rnmom502 DENISE

    Vanilla beans came today! Just had to post. Oh my goodness they smell so good. There are over 60 of them…and I have a liter of cheap vodka! Thank you, Annie, for posting about making your own vanilla. You have encouraged me to try so many new things.

  • T.T.

    i received some as a gift about 10 years ago and it is sealed still with the original cork – I just keep adding to the recipe

  • http://www.facebook.com/k.a.yates Karen Ann Yates

    Hey Annie! I just read all the comments on here to make sure this question wasn’t already asked. What do you do when your vanilla runs out. Do you just fill it back up with vodka or use the beans for something else and add new beans to the bottle?

  • annieseats

    I actually do mention that right at the end of the post. Hope that helps :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/k.a.yates Karen Ann Yates

    oh geez, sorry, i missed that. Thanks Annie!

  • Chestnut Mocha

    Great photos, we just did this too! It’s super easy, we read somewhere else about making orange extract this way too, we’re thinking about trying that next.

  • Monique Burkes

    I do this, except I make it much simpler. I add the vanilla beans to the vodka bottle. No need for a 2nd/replacement bottle, unless you’re gift giving. And, even in that case, I STILL use the vodka bottle.

  • Chelle

    Olive Nation has a pretty decent priced vanilla bean. I’ve been browsing Amazon, ebay and some other places. There are also coupons codes you can find for 10% off. I believe all of their vanilla beans ship free. :) I so want to do this.

  • Kerri

    I have had two large bottles “brewing” since November 17, 2011. I am going to give it away as Christmas presents this year. Can’t wait to try it! THANK you so much for this recipe!

  • Kelli

    The “floaty things” were the seeds from your vanilla beans…where the flavor is! When you use a vanilla bean for cooking you split the bean and scrape the seeds out to use them in your recipe. The specks are what you see in vanilla bean ice cream or cheesecake. If your beans had mold/slime on them from the dealer then that could be what made your batch smell horrible. Was the horrible smell that of alcohol? If if was then it was likely you just didn’t wait quite long enough.

  • Kelli

    You don’t need “fresh” pods. If they are too dry to split just snap them in a few pieces and put them into the bottle!

  • http://www.facebook.com/heather.rueth Heather Rueth

    Help! It’s November 5th. If I make this now will it be good about a week before xmas as gifts or are 2 full months necessary to ferment?

  • annieseats

    That’s really your call. The longer the better. The only way you will know is by checking it at Christmas and seeing if you think it is good enough. Enjoy!

  • Seth C

    Just bottle and give it away, asking the people to wait another two weeks to let it reach it’s peak flavor. Simple. Breathe easy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deborah.h.harvey Deborah Holton Harvey

    This is the only point of contention that I have with your blog.. cheap vodka makes horrible vanilla extract! It gives it a sharp, medicinal flavor and takes far longer to meld with the beans and even out.. ask me how I know. Against my own judgement, I took your advice last fall and bought cheap vodka. That batch of vanilla extract sat for a full 2 months and still was horrid. I had planned to give it to my children to use for their Christmas baking and just couldn’t do it, it was that bad! I ended up buying expensive imported vanilla to give them, since I had already told them I was giving them “good” vanilla. Four months later I am finally able to use the “cheap” vanilla extract that I made last fall.. in the end it cost me far more to use cheap vodka that it should have. Buy & use at least a medium priced vodka ~ I’ve been making vanilla extract using Stoli (Stolichnaya) for years and will continue use & recommend it.

  • annieseats

    All I know is we’ve had no trouble with cheap vodka. Mine tastes and smells great and is most definitely not medicinal.

  • Vanessa F.

    Stupid question alert: I’ve been making my own extract for about 9 mos. now, and I happened to be using the exact bottles you’ve pictured here. I thought maybe I’d remove the beans from a spent bottle, wash it, and refill with fresh vodka and fresh beans, but I had a devil of a time getting those spent pods out of the bottle! Do you just leave ‘em in there and add more beans and vodka, or have you actually found a way to get those things out? :)

  • annieseats

    I usually just leave the beans in for a while and periodically take them out after I think they’ve been in for a long time (super scientific, right? ;) Weirdly though, mine are always falling out of the bottles when I pour the extract so I have sort of the opposite problem. Have you tried tweezers?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=620071816 Patricia Welch

    Nothing like Homemade Vanilla. The Flavor! IMHO, when I finish a bottle, I remove the pods, dry them & use them for flavoring sugar.

  • Vanessa F.

    Haha – yes, I tried tweezers, skewers, any pointy narrow object I could find. I did eventually work them out — just wondered if you had special trick! No worries.

  • Tara

    Mine has quite a bit of sediment. Is that desirable? Or should I strain it somehow before giving it as a gift?

  • annieseats

    No need to strain, it’s just vanilla seeds. That’s good stuff in there!

  • Brittany

    SO i made a few bottles a couple of weeks ago too to give as gifts and all the bottles have a lot of weird looking stuff floating in them, some of the bottles look kinda foggy and some of the seeds have formed into little brown bubble looking things haha, is that normal? Their starting to smell wonderful tho but they dont look anything like the picture. They look kinda scary haha, but if thats normal then thats fine with me! Thanks lady! let me know

  • annieseats

    It’s just vanilla seeds, certainly not a bad thing at all. If you shake them up the seeds will break apart so they won’t be so clumped but either way, it doesn’t hurt anything.