Homemade Vanilla Extract: The Recipe
Ingredients and supplies needed:
1/2 pound vanilla beans
1/2 gallon (1.75 liter) vodka, any inexpensive brand will do (or bourbon, or rum for gluten-free)
sharp paring knife or kitchen scissors
very clean 1/2 gallon jar with lid or two quart jars
place to store
little bottles (if making gifts)
The ratio of beans to alcohol according to this excellent tutorial is about 8 vanilla beans (1 ounce) for each cup vodka. A half gallon is 8 cups, so that will be your entire half pound (8 ounces) or about 64 beans.Honestly though, you can use a little less, up to half (32 beans), and still have excellent vanilla. Other sources used 32-40 beans per half gallon. Frugal and faster. Sounds good! You can also put your jars in the sun on warm days to speed up the extraction.Make sure your materials, especially the jar for extraction, is as clean as can be (running it through a dishwasher on hot with heated dry should do it). You don’t want to risk weird stuff growing in your vanilla, since it will be sitting at room temperature for perhaps years.To prepare the beans, you have 3 choices
Cut the beans lengthwise with a sharp paring knife and scrape out the seeds, using all of the parts in the alcohol.
Snip the beans lengthwise and in half with clean kitchen scissors.
Just snip the beans into smaller pieces so that they are totally immersed in the vodka and not sticking out the top.
Seeds and beans all go into the jar; cover with alcohol and shake well.Any of the methods work, but some believe that the more you open up the vanilla beans, the higher quality and flavor your finished product with have.
For the first two weeks, try to remember to shake up your bottles or jars every day. After that, give them a good shake once a week (or whenever you bump into them in the cupboard).
After about 6 months (or 10 or so, if you’re forgetful like me), just strain out the beans and seeds and store your homemade vanilla extract back in the jars you’ve been keeping it in or pour into dark bottles for gifts. (Really anytime after 3-4 months, you can strain the beans or pour off little bottles for gifts.)
Between the second and sixth month, you can begin to use the extract and simply top off the jar with more vodka as you go, tossing in a few beans if you like as well. It’s not necessary to add vodka, but it extends the quantity of vanilla you can make.
You can also try a second extraction with the same beans, although it might take a little longer to get a nice amber colour.
When you’ve used the beans as much as possible, you can still make vanilla sugar by covering the leftover (already used) beans with sugar, letting it sit and shaking it occasionally for a few weeks.