Thursday, August 18, 2011

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

I am always out of vanilla extract. I never remember to pick up a bottle when I do the rest of my groceries since I don't need to go down the baking aisle for anything else. A little bottle of the fake stuff will cost you over $3 while a teeny bottle of the real stuff runs around $10. I think the bottle is under 100ml. You might get a dozen uses out of one just using 1/2-1 teaspoon per recipe. I've been using a splash of vanilla flavored soy milk when I bake but it's just not the same.

I remember seeing a post on Punk Rock Domestics where someone made their own vanilla extract but it was a few years ago and I couldn't find it. Google came through, there were tons of posts on how to make it, lots of different ways. I picked the method that seemed easiest and closest to what I remember seeing on PRD.

This is super easy, you just need a little patience. So here's what you need:

Cheap Vodka
  • Mickey of Vodka, 375ml. I bought the cheap stuff since I wasn't going to be drinking any. This one cost me about $13.
  • Vanilla beans. I didn't shop around for these because I had to walk down Hastings with booze and a baby, I just grabbed the first ones I saw and got outta Dodge. These cost me $6.99 and are Madagascar beans. I saw them later at my local market for $3.49. I'll know for next time, if I ever manage to run out of vanilla again.
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife. This is my cute little fruit knife.

 You need to slice down the middle of your vanilla beans so that you expose the innards and so that all the nice little flecks of vanilla bits can get into your vodka. I left the ends attached so that there are less big pieces to worry about when I go to use it.
Slice the beans through the middle

Now open your vodka and add the vanilla beans. Now give it a good shake. If you don't have room to shake then you know what you have to do, pour yourself a shot.

Grab a sharpie and write the date on the bottle, I peeled off the label to make this easier and so that nobody accidentally takes a swig of vanilla extract thinking it's some fancy vodka. That would probably be pretty gross.

Now comes the hard part. You have to wait at least 2 months until you can use this stuff. I was bad and used a bit today for some coconut macaroons. I only made it a week ago, it smells like vanilla booze but thankfully the boozeyness baked off in the oven. It didn't have a really strong vanilla flavor yet.

The color after 7 days
If you're an avid baker you can have a couple of these on the go, maybe a month apart so that you always have one ready. If you don't go through it that fast you can keep topping the bottle off with more vodka! I'm not sure how many times you can fill it up before it starts to get weak, you could probably just taste it every so often.

So there's 1/3 litre of pure vanilla extract for $20! ($15 if you shop around for the best price)


  1. I selected this post for comment only because of its contextual proximity to a post my sister did on her blog not too long ago.


    And then I thought, my sister feeds a family of six on a pretty strict budget, and she's got mad kitchen mojo, and that's all packed into her blog. So maybe some of that would translate to what you guys are hoping to accomplish. Not sure if it's up your alley or not, but it's worth a look, yeah?

    Keep it up. It's good to know I'm not in this boat alone. Being poor sucks, but it doesn't have to blow.

  2. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

    We're bookmarking your sister's blog for sure, Jon took one look at the recipe index and said that I have to make the flank steak and salsa. We always appreciate more recipes and ideas for stretching out our groceries.

    I love her idea of buying large amounts of vanilla beans and the various things she made with them. It never occurred to me that I could probably get them in bulk and do other things with them.
    I think I'm going to have to make the vanilla syrup, I love Starbucks vanilla lattes but haven't had one in well over a year because of the cost.

    Being poor isn't too bad, it's what you make of it!