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Saturday
Dec262009

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

 

Merry Christmas!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. As I've written before, every year we give a little Christmas Eve party and I give out some kind of homemade goodie at the end of the evening.  This year I wanted to do the fun DIY thing of making your own vanilla extract.  I go through so much vanilla extract and the good stuff is so expensive.  I love the idea of making your own from good vanilla beans and then just adding vodka to it to keep it going - after all, that's all vanilla extract is, really - alcohol and vanilla beans.   All you do is pour unflavored vodka into a glass jar, cut a couple of vanilla beans in half and then split them and stick them into the bottle.  You need to let this steep for a couple of months until it is ready to use.  I started all these bottles in October, to give out at Christmas. So everyone got a bottle of vanilla extract and a little bag of caramels topped with Sicilian Sea Salt, which I made.

I got some wonderful Bourbon vanilla beans from Beanilla. They were so exceptional - thick and very moist with wonderful aroma. You can buy a bunch in bulk and use some for vanilla extract and then keep the rest for regular baking in an airtight container in the pantry.  We make homemade vanilla ice cream with real vanilla bean and it makes a big difference.  I ordered the cute little 4 ounce Boston round bottles from Specialty Bottle Company.  You can also get a variety of bottles from Beanilla.

 If you would like to read the differences between the various kinds of vanilla beans, Garrett over at Vanilla Garlic has an informative post about that.

I ordered the fun little labels from My Own Labels, a great company where you can get custom labels for lots of things, including homemade food items, cds, bottles, etc.

Cut the vanilla beans in half and then cut them down the middle, to split them and open them up.  The inside seeds of the vanilla bean is called the "caviar".  Just place a couple of the cut beans right into the bottle.

Add unflavored vodka and seal the bottle and let it steep for 6 to 8 weeks, until it is ready to use.  The extract will last practically forever.  As you use it, just keep filling it up with a little more vodka.  You will never run out of extract.  Eventally it will help to add a couple of fresh vanilla beans to the bottle.  Remove the cap every once in a while and inhale.  It's wonderful.   

 

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Reader Comments (165)

Really beautiful...what a great idea. Love the photography!!!!!!! Happy Holidays!

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdawn

great list of ingredients!

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVera

Thank you! This is such a great idea! Is there a shelf life for the vanilla extract?

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary

From The Italian Dish:

Mary: As I mentioned in the post, the extract will last practically forever. It never goes bad. Just keep adding some vodka to it! Thanks.

December 27, 2009 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Beautiful photos! Wonderful gift idea! I've already gone through about half of my "Elaine's homemade vanilla extract" for my holiday baking. THANK YOU!

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeta

Love this- very clever and we all tend to run low on vanilla from time to time!

now looking for New Year's party ideas.
what are your plans?

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermamamia

Wow this is amazing!! Vanilla bean is so expensive here in Kuwait and is almost non-exsistant.. I found a store that sells 3 vanilla sticks for $10 ! .. So this would help.. But unfortunatley we dont do alcohol.. any other substitute? please email me at sugarmemories@yahoo.com! wonderful blog you have here!

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMadame Sucre

i keep meaning to do this... and now maybe i will.

great post. the label source is excellent. i made cherry bourbon this year - also started in october to give as gifts. got the bottles but the label run minimum was huge... so my bottles were label-less,,,

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterclaudia @ ceF

Wow! Gorgeously done. Thanks for the fantastic shop links!

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZom

HI Elaine,
This looks amazing!
I will be trying it.
So sorry we missed the Annual event!
Lydia

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLydia Killeen

I wanted to do this in time to give as gifts this year, but it didn't happen. Next year for sure! I love the bottles and labels you used... thanks for sharing how to find them!

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpatsy

From The Italian Dish:

Mamamia: New Year's Eve happens to be my birthday! I'll have to find out what the husband has planned.

Madame Sucre: I feel sorry for you that you live in a country where you can't buy liquor! No, there is not a good substitute for the vodka. Sorry!

Claudia: I don't think there was a minimum on the labels from my source - maybe next year you can order from them! Cherry Bourbon sounds great.

December 27, 2009 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

WOW! I love this idea!!

I've bookmarked this page, and made a notation on my calendar so that I don't miss the opportunity to make this for Christmas gifts next year.

Thanks for sharing!!!

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

How beautiful Elaine. We are sorry to have missed your annual gala. The gifts are beautiful!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Federau

Lovely. Well done.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersusiej

I just love this idea - and your labels look great too.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercurious gravy

Great idea! I think I might do this next year. Love the bottles and labels. Great photos as well!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstephanie

I received homemade vanilla as a Christmas gift and love it. I've been meaning to do it and now my sister-in-law went and did it. I love your very specific directions and photos. Lovely, lovely blog!

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

I made my first vanilla extract this year and it is awesome. Gave some as a gift to my mom but I never even thought about making labels. Genius.

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Q

Great ideas and I love your photos. One quick question: is there a special technique to sealing the bottles (like when canning or preserving) or just tighten the lid?

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreen Tee

I have always wanted to make as a gift except the cost of the beans was outrageous-Thank you thank you for your info on the organic vanilla bean company, I just placed a order for 20 beans so I will finally get to make some for gifts. What a GREAT idea and your photography is beautiful.

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristina Wolter

From The Italian Dish:

Green Tee: No special sealing is required, as in canning. Just tighten the top and that's it. Have fun!

December 29, 2009 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I love the labeling and packaging! So sleek and professional! And homemade vanilla extract is a great idea for gifts, very special!

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterveggie wedgie

Wow!! THAT'S how vanilla extracts are made! I'm buying some vanilla beans right now and copying your idea. Thanks a million!

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThuy

what a nifty idea. I love the idea for the labels. Thanks for the post.

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterciaochowlinda

These are such beautiful gifts. What a wonderful presentation. A must for next Christmas! Thanks, Buon Anno!

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

Love this idea! Thanks!

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelsey

can i just say that for some reason i ABHOR having to buy vanilla extract? and i don't know why. i am THRILLED beyond belief that i can actually MAKE it now and never.run.out!!

thank you so much for providing the recipe.

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLan

Elaine, I've been lurking on this post several times. I love this post! What a great idea and the links you provided are amazing. Thank you for sharing, I've gotten so many ideas. You're the bomb! Oh, and a very Happy Birthday to you, and a Happy New Year! Can't wait till 2010 to see what you have cooking up next!

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermarie

Thank you for the idea! I have a quick question: when you're refilling the vodka, do you have to let the whole thing sit for another two months?

December 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

From The Italian Dish:

Maggie: That's a really good question. I think if you use say, half the bottle in one day and then refill it, you would probably want the extract to sit for a while before you used it again. For this reason, I have two bottles going at all times. Then, if I happen to use an unusual amount of extract all of a sudden, I have a second bottle to use while the first bottle steeps for a while.

December 31, 2009 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Does it matter what kind of vodka you use?

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelsey

Hi, Elaine.... Thank you, thank you. This is a great post, and you've made the process so user-friendly that I'm finally going to stop THINKING about making vanilla extract and actually MAKE some!

One question: When you ordered from My Own Label, do you remember which size label you got for the 4 oz. jars?

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEric

From The Italian Dish:

Eric: I'm so glad you liked the post. When I ordered from My Own Labels, I ordered two labels, one for the front of the bottle and one for the back. The labels for the back were Metropolitan TLME05-03 and the labels for the front were Metropolitan FME01-03 . Hope this helps!

January 1, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Elaine these are beautiful! I made my own Vanilla Extract as gifts for Christmas too (but I'm loving your packaging much better ; ) Buon Anno Nuovo!

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaula - bell'alimento

Love, love, love, LOVE your labeling arts!

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdelina

I love this idea! I'm totally not a "foodie" and usually my forays into the kitchen stop at brownies and some basic dinners. What a wonderfully simple and useful gift! I love, love, love the labels! Thank you!!!

January 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Sewell

Hello

I am Vanilla producer from Indonesia:-)

Regards
http://www.organicindonesianvanilla.blogspot.com

February 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAgus Ramada S

Lovely idea! When I was growing up, my mother always kept her sugar in a large glass canister and she always had a whole vanilla bean in there with the sugar, so her sugar was always vanilla flavored. To this day I still remember fondly the warm, sweet smell that filled the kitchen when she opened that jar.

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkim

I went over to Organic Vanilla Bean Company but unfortunately they are out of stock on *everything*, so I can't see pricing. I was actually thinking of doing this with my science class as a Mother's Day present (if my school approves of using the alcohol) during our plant/flower/fruit unit. What was the cost of the bulk vanilla beans, so I can compare other Websites. Can you recommend another supplier?

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkim

From The Italian Dish:

Kim:

So sorry The Organic Vanilla Bean Company is out of stock! I have actually bought beautiful vanilla beans also from Beanilla and they have good pricing in bulk, too:

http://www.beanilla.com/vanilla-beans-madagascar-vanilla-c-1_17.html

Hope this helps!

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

Hello Elaine! I met you and your husband during the wonderful valentines dinner in Chicago. It was such a pleasure to meet you both as we enjoyed a delicious meal and met new people. I just finished pouring the vodka into my vanilla bean filled jar and am even more anxious for June than ever before :) Thanks again for introducing your wonderful blog as I am a now a committed fan of your delicious dishes!

February 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPepper

From The Italian DIsh:

Pepper! So good to hear from you. I'm glad you found your way to my blog - you will love the vanilla extract! It was nice to meet you in Chicago - what fun the evening was!

March 1, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Looking forward to trying out this wonderful gift idea for christmas. The organic bourbon vanilla beans are out of stock. Hope they become available again, if not, I'll use another source. When length beans did you order for your 4 oz bottles.
Smalls: under 5" (12,5)
Smalls: 5"- 6" (12,5 -15cm)
Shorts: 6"- 7" (15 - 17,5cm)
Longs : 7"- 8" (17,5 - 20cm)
Super : 8" & longer (20cm+)
Thanks!

March 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentereliz

From The Italian Dish:

Eliz: I ordered the 7-8" long beans, but it doesn't really matter - you just cut them to fit the bottle, so any size will work! Have fun!

March 10, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Hi there

Are you willing to post your recipe for the Caramel's with sicilian sea salt, and a source for the adorable bags you used?

Thanks!!!!!

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarina

From The Italian Dish:

Sarina:

Here is the link to the salted caramels that I made. I did not do a post on these, but you can get the recipe here: http://tinyurl.com/d7fcdr

Also, here is the link to the bags that I used for the caramels. I ordered the small ones. They are from "My Own Labels", the place I got the labels from. Hope this helps! http://tinyurl.com/ygqynqa

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

I can't believe I missed this post. I want to do this, make my own vanilla. I wonder then if the vodka (turned vanilla) would be enough alcohol to keep the vanilla ice cream from freezing up.

April 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela@Spinachtiger

From The Italian Dish:

Angela:

You know, when I make homemade ice cream I always use a fresh vanilla bean, not vanilla extract, so I can't really help you out about that! I'm not sure what the answer on that would be.

April 13, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

What a fantastic idea! I make Christmas presents every year for about 50-60 friends and family. Of course, I need to think about it early in the year. I can't tell you how pleased I am to have come across your website! You are the best! Not only do you share your wonderful recipes, but you give detailed "how to" information. I have made your little Easter Breads (my family loved them!) and they turned out exactly like your picture. I can't wait to make your homemade vanilla and give it as gifts.
How many vanilla beans do you use per jar?
Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!
Connie

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

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