Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Last year I ordered vanilla beans and vanilla powder from Beanilla Trading Company.  I had read good reports about this company’s products and services, and I was not disappointed.  My order arrived quickly, and the packaging was high-quality.  The vanilla beans have been stellar, with generous amounts of “caviar” in each bean.  Beanilla’s prices are good, too, especially for the quality.  I’ll be ordering from them again, to be sure.  (Please note that I am not being compensated in any way for this endorsement.  In fact, Beanilla is totally unaware of it.)

One of the reasons I wanted to order vanilla beans was so that I could make my own extract.  It’s not a hard thing to do, it’s just time consuming.  Six months of time to be exact.  That’s how long the beans must soak in alcohol for the full flavor to be extracted. 

Here are the jars when they were first filled:011

Here are the jars after 6 months:

You can see that I recycled a green wine vinegar jar, a brown jar and a clear jar.  They were all thoroughly washed and rinsed, then sterilized, before using.  You can also buy colored glass or clear glass jars from Beanilla.  If you really want to make life simple, just open a new bottle of vodka and slip your spliced vanilla beans right into that, using 1 oz., or about 3, beans for every 8 oz. of vodka.  You’ll have  a ton of vanilla extract, but, really, what great Christmas gifts they would make.   Just buy or recycle smaller bottles for gift giving. 

P. S.  Several readers have asked which mixture I preferred.  Unfortunately, novice me should have used one type bean in 3 different alcohols.  Because I didn't do that, I can't really say which bean I prefer.  But I can say that the bourbon vanilla beans soaked in Barbados rum were by far my favorite mixture.  I also, at a later date, purchased Tonga beans, but was underimpressed with those.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
Source:  Unknown

For each batch, you will need:
1 10 oz. jar with lid, preferably dark green or brown glass
8 oz. vodka, bourbon or rum
1 oz. vanilla beans (about 3, depending on size)

Wash each jar  thoroughly with hot soapy water and rinse well.  Sterilize by steaming or boiling in water, along with the knife you will use to cut the vanilla beans open.  Cool on wire rack with bottles and caps  turned upside down to drain.

Label jars or caps with date.  

Pour 8 oz. of preferred alcohol in each bottle.  Cut each bean right down the middle to expose seeds.  You don’t need to scrape the seeds out.

(If preferred, you can cut the beans in smaller pieces to make it easier to cover them with the alcohol.)

Place beans in jar, being sure they are completely covered with liquid – no bean pieces should show above the alcohol.  Cap.  Shake. Shake vigorously every day or at least once a week.  If you forget, don’t  worry.  Just shake the jar(s) as often as you remember.  This shakes the seeds free, and helps to flavor the alcohol. 

You can start using your extract after 2 months, but the best flavor will be developed after 6 months.  Like a fine wine, it  will improve with age.  Shake the bottle before measuring out your extract, and be sure to store in a cool, dry place away from sun, light and heat.  As you use the vanilla, you can replace what you’ve  used with more alcohol.  Initially, it will dilute the flavor, but it will catch up quickly. 

Vanilla powder is a wonderful substitute for vanilla extract when you don’t want to add more liquid to a recipe, such as in ice cream or frosting recipes.  It's very easy to make.

Homemade Vanilla Powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp. cornstarch

Cut the bean into 1 to 2 inch segments.  Put pieces into a clean spice/coffee grinder and grind into small pieces, about 1 minute.  Add sugar and cornstarch and blend for about 2 minutes, or until the sugar is a fine powder.  Sift contents through a fine sieve to remove any small pieces of vanilla bean that were not sufficiently milled.  Store in clean, sterilized, airtight glass container away from sun, light and heat.  The powder should be stored for at least 2 weeks before using.


Faith said...

I bet the homemade vanilla extract is so much better than store-bought! I can't wait to try this!

Kathy said...

Thanks for the tutorial! I've always wanted to try making homemade vanilla extract. I'm sure in the long run it is cheaper to do so!

Sophie said...

Hello Judy!!

Your own made vanilla extract sounds so good,..I allways make my own vanilla extract too!

There is no substitute for it!!

Thanks for the vanilla powder recipe!! I am going to make this tomorrow!!

Lovely pics too!

MelindaRD said...

Wow, that is really cool. I never thought about this before. I want to give this a try. We do our from scratch meals, so this is up our alley.

Deanne said...

Okay - I am completely liquor illiterate. Or ignorant. I actually HAVE the vanilla beans. What brand of vodka do you suggest? Are there different strengths?

Judy said...

Deanne, I used Smirnoff because it's what was in our liquor cabinet. You can use whatever brand suits you. Check with your liquor supplier, they should be able to guide you, but it's not going to make a huge difference one way or the other. The amount of vanilla you use in baking is so small, no one will detect whether you use a cheap vodka or an expensive vodka.

Cynthia said...

Can you describe the flavor differences with the various alcohols you tried? I am not an alcohol drinker so I am not aware of their flavor profiles. I have some vanilla from Mexico that is deeper and richer than other vanillas I've used from Mexico. I am thinking that perhaps they used Rum as the base instead of Vodka for that? I will probably do as you did and try a few different types of alcohol but I'd love to hear if you have a preference.

Judy said...

Cynthia, In order for me to make a flavor comparison, I would have to use all 3 vanillas separately in a recipe -- in other words, make the recipe 3x using a different vanilla each time. I haven't done that. I do know that I made coconut blueberry muffins recently and used some coconut flavored rum and some of the rum-based vanilla, and they were so unbelievably good. The vanilla flavor was deeper and richer than what I've experienced before.

Dana B said...

Hi Judy. I'm new to your blog and have a question about this post. In the section where you talk about just putting a bean in a bottle of vodka, you say to use 1 bean per 8 oz, but in the recipe it says to use 1 oz of vanilla even tho it's 8 oz alcohol. Which is correct or does it really matter? Is time really the most important factor? Thank you!!! Great blog!

Judy said...

Hi Dana B, Welcome to my blog. I apologize for my error and thank you so much for catching it. I've corrected the post. It does matter. It's always 1 oz. to 8 oz. alcohol. 1 oz. is about 3 beans, but some beans are larger and weigh more than others. Better to have too many than not enough. In fact, if you have a lot of beans, you can double the amount to make double strength vanilla. Time is an important factor, and full flavor is not developed until 6 months, but you can start using the vanilla at 2 months. It gets better as it ages and just keep topping it off with alcohol to keep it going indefinitely.