How to Make Vanilla Extract

Standing in the baking aisle of the grocery store and staring at the choices for vanilla extract put me into a weird thinking trance that made other shoppers look at me like I was insane. I stared at all the choices for a good long while trying to figure out which was right for me. Yes, I do this with practically every purchase. It takes me hours to shop for groceries. 

I know that imitation vanilla is really just a bunch of gross chemicals manufactured to taste like actual vanilla. Real vanilla is pricey, and for someone who bakes as much as I do, it’s enough to put you in the poorhouse. I looked back and forth between the organic vanilla extract and the organic vanilla beans and thought: Hold the phone, I can extract that vanilla goodness myself!! Vanilla beans at our store are eight bucks for two. A four-ounce bottle of vanilla extract is almost $10. Some quick iPhone research told me that I could make a cup of extract with two beans and save myself a decent chunk of change.

When I returned home from my grocery shopping extravaganza hours later, I set to making my extract. The process took about 5 to 10 minutes, but then I read I had to let it sit for two months before I could use it. Back to the grocery to buy some extract! I can’t wait two months to bake cookies. That’s ridiculous!

Here are the steps all graphically laid out for you so you can do it too! Just don’t make the same mistake as I did and remember to make yourself some extract approximately two months before you’re going to run out.

Step 1: Go to the store and buy 2 to 3 vanilla beans in this nifty little glass canister.  Struggle way too hard to open the cap without letting the beans come flying out at a velocity only seen in space. Fail miserably.

Step 2: Utilize five-second rule, scoop up beans off the floor, blow off dust and hair, and place them on the ultra cool robot cutting board your pops made for you.

Step 3: Use a sharp knife to cut the beans in half and then down the stem, so they look like a pair of shiny, smelly trousers for a very skinny 2-inch-tall human.

Step 4: Place the tiny pants in a classic vintage jar that has a tight fitting lid. Or if you only have lame, new glassware, I suppose that would work as well.

Step 5: Open up your most favorite plain flavorless vodka. Take a few swigs to ensure it’s not poisonous.

Step 6: Measure out a cup of said vodka, set aside. Measure out another cup of vodka and pour it over those beansers.

Step 7:  Twist that cap onto the top of the jar and stash it in the cupboard. Let it sit for at least two months, shaking it up on occasion. Pat yourself on the back and admire your handiwork. Remember that glass of vodka you set aside in the last step? Use it to reward yourself for all of your hard work. Making vanilla sure is tiring, but reaping the rewards is well worth the effort.

Your vanilla is finished when it reaches the color and taste you desire. Ours sat for about two months before we used it. The best part? You can go ahead and top off the vanilla with more vodka when you’ve used enough of it! 

Have fun, friends!

– Meredith


If you’re into doing it yourself when it comes to food, check out my post on how to make your own brown sugar!

Pop on over to our blog for more incredible adventures on the homestead!

Published on Nov 19, 2013

Grit Magazine

Live The Good Life with GRIT!