By Erin Huffstetler | 06/18/2020 | 3 Comments
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Vanilla prices have soared in recent years. Learn how to make your own vanilla extract, so you don’t have to settle for the imitation stuff. It’s easy, and makes a great gift. I’ve even included free, printable labels, as well as instructions for making non-alcoholic vanilla extract.
What You Need:
- 3 vanilla beans
- 1 cup vodka
- A pint jar
- A knife
- A cutting board
Buy the cheapest vodka you can find. Pricier vodka doesn’t make for better extract. To save on vanilla beans, opt for grade B beans. They’re about $1 cheaper than grade A beans, and work well for extract. $2 a bean is a fair price to pay for grade B vanilla beans. You used to be able to get grade A beans for $1 a piece, but ever since a cyclone wiped out most of Madagascar’s vanilla farms back in 2017, prices have settled around three times what they used to be.
The good news is that vanilla beans can be used to make several batches of extract before they need to be replaced. So, even though bean prices are up, you’ll still save a ton by making your own vanilla extract. I recommend buying your beans online. They’ll be cheaper and fresher than anything you’ll find at the grocery store.
How Much Does It Cost to Make Pure Vanilla Extract?
Here’s a breakdown of what it’ll cost you to make 8 ounces of vanilla extract:
3 vanilla beans = $6
1 cup of vodka = $1.67
Total Cost = $7.67
These days 8 ounces of pure vanilla goes for anywhere from $20-$40 a bottle (yikes!), so you’ll save at least $12 on your first batch. You’ll save even more on subsequent batches. Since vanilla beans can be reused several times, that means each additional batch of extract you’re able to make from your beans will only cost you $1.67. What a steal!
And the best part? Making your own vanilla extract requires absolutely no culinary skills and only about two minutes of your time.
Here’s a video to take you through the process.
And here are step-by-step instructions.
What You Do:
Cut a slit down the side of each bean to expose the vanilla seeds.
Then, cut the beans in half, and drop them in your pint jar.
Fill the jar half way with vodka, so that the beans are fully submerged. Then, screw on the lid, and you’re done.
Allow your extract to develop over two to three months. The vodka will darken as it extracts more vanilla flavor from the beans. The jar on the left was just made. That jar in the middle was made about a week ago. And that bottle on the end was made several months ago.
When you’re happy with the color and flavor, pour the vanilla into another jar or bottle. Then, use the beans to start another batch. This will ensure that by the time you’ve used up your first batch, you’ll have more ready to go.
I usually get at least three batches of vanilla out of my beans. When they stop turning your vodka brown, you’ll know it’s time to replace them.
But don’t throw your beans out. You can still use them to make vanilla bean powder.
How to Make Non-Alcoholic Vanilla Extract
Cooking for kids, or someone else who can’t have alcohol? To make a non-alcoholic vanilla extract, just use a mixture of food-grade liquid glycerin and water in place of the vodka. It’ll do the same job.
Liquid glycerin is readily available online. To use it in your vanilla extract, mix together 3/4 cup glycerin and 1/4 cup water; then, use in place of one cup of vodka.
Glycerin doesn’t extract the flavor from vanilla beans as fast as alcohol does, so expect it to take longer for your vanilla to develop. That jar of vanilla extract shown above was made with glycerin, so with a bit of patience you’ll end up with a dark, flavorful extract.
Extracts made with glycerin are called glycerites. They’re sugar-free, gluten-free, and as long as you use a vegetable-based glycerin, they’re vegan, too. Glycerin is an excellent preservative, so your non-alcoholic vanilla extract will keep for at least four years.
In terms of taste, glycerites have all the vanilla flavor that you’re used to, without any of that alcoholic bite. They’re a little more syrupy in consistency than normal extracts, but that won’t affect any recipes that you use them in.
Printable Vanilla Extract Labels
Homemade vanilla extract makes a great gift. Decant it into smaller bottles (I like to use 4 oz. amber Boston Round bottles). Then, add one of these free, printable labels.
These labels are designed to print on full-sheet shipping labels. Use Avery 8165, if you have an inkjet, or Avery 5265, if you have a laser printer. I like to print my kitchen labels on vinyl sheet. Since it’s water-proof and dishwasher-safe, you can label a bottle once; then, refill it over and over. Just make sure you buy vinyl that’s made to work with the type of printer you have. It’s available for both laser printers and ink jet printers, and the two aren’t interchangeable.
Many web browsers have their own built-in PDF viewers, but they tend to be buggy. If you’re having trouble printing or editing one of our printables, click here for help.
- 3 vanilla beans
- 1 cup vodka
Cut a slit up the side of each vanilla bean.
Then, cut the beans in half, and place them in a pint jar.
Cover with the vodka.
Wait at least two months, before using. This will give the extract time to develop a rich color and flavor.
- Save money by using grade B vanilla beans.
- To make non-alcoholic vanilla extract, use a mixture of 3/4 cup food-grade liquid glycerin and 1/4 cup water in place of the vodka.