Homemade Vanilla Extract – Secret Recipe Club

A few years ago, we received an interesting Christmas gift from my husband’s aunt.  A fifth of vodka and a few vanilla beans in a test tube, along with a note explaining how to make our own homemade vanilla extract.  This was about the time I really got into making more foods from scratch, and without her knowing it, she got us the perfect present.

Fast forward a few years, and that homemade vanilla is long gone, and I’ve bought a few bottles of the stuff you find at the store.  Soooo not the same thing.  So when my mother-in-law got me a gift card to Penzey’s, one of the items I bought were a few whole vanilla beans.  Have you ever smelled vanilla beans in that form?  Heavenly, I tell you.

When I received this month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment of From the Bookshelf, I went through tons of pages looking for the right recipe.  Then I saw this one for homemade vanilla, and that reminded me that I still needed to make more of my own.  Off to the ABC I went.

(Aside, isn’t it interesting how the liquor laws vary from state to state?  I grew up in Maryland where you could only buy beer, wine and liquor from a “liquor store.”  Here in Virginia you can get beer and wine at the grocery store, but you have to buy your liquor from the ABC.  What are the laws where you live?)

Making your own vanilla extract is so easy.  Buy some vodka, put the vanilla beans in it.  Let it sit in your cabinet for a few months.  That’s it.  The photo above is a few weeks in.  The only problem is thinking far enough ahead to actually have your extract ready when you need it before you run out of the old one.

For my extract, I used Smirnoff.  I’m fancy that way.  From the Bookshelf went a little more high-end, and she also used more vanilla beans than I did.  Our Christmas vanilla only used two beans for a fifth of vodka, so that’s what I went with also.  I’m frugal with my vanilla beans!  Okay, fine, I’m cheap.  Whatever.

From the Bookshelf is a blog with a really cool concept.  Make at least one recipe a week from the ever-growing number of cookbooks on her shelf.  I should do the same.  I have two cookbooks I bought in the past few weeks and, aside from reading them cover to cover once, I haven’t made anything from them.  I’m inspired now to crack those open and start cooking from them.

Linked up to: Today’s Creative Blog, 33 Shades of Green, SS&GF, Food Trip Friday

You can find this recipe linked up to the linky parties found HERE.

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  1. amanda @ fake ginger

    I totally complained about my state’s liquor laws in my SRC post too! I was in Alabama where I could get wine and beer at the grocery store but now I’m in Colorado and all I can get is beer! I *hate* having to go to the liquor store just for wine. Ugh!

    Anyway… my mom gave me homemade vanilla extract for Christmas last year and it was my favorite gift! You can definitely taste a difference. I need to suck it up and buy some bottles to make my own!

  2. Lesa @Edesia's Notebook

    Very interesting, Amy! I am thinking of making some to use as Christmas gifts. I have never heard of the ABC. In the Midwest you can buy wine, beer, and liquor at either the liquor store, or at any grocery store. We lived in a “dry” county in Texas for a year and had to drive to Dallas-Fort Worth for ANY kind of alcohol. It is weird how much it differs by state.

  3. Karen Harris

    Here in Colorado you can only buy 3.2 beer and wine coolers (I think) at the grocery store. You can see how often I buy my alcohol there. Everything else has to be purchased at the liquor store. In Texas it looks like the same laws apply as you have. In England you can buy anything pretty much anywhere (as it should be). I love this idea as a Christmas gift. I know what my friends are getting this year.

  4. Taryn

    I’ve seen recipes for this all over lately, but have never tried it myself. It’s so simple! I guess I better get going so I’ve got some around for the holidays!

  5. Erika

    I gave this as a gift a few years ago – we called it “Perpetual Vanilla” because you can keep topping off your bottle with more vodka and b/c the beans are in there, they keep flavoring for a LONG time. I haven’t bought vanilla in years.

  6. Nichole

    My county in Georgia just opened their very first liquor store last November, it was a completely dry county until the late 90’s and you still can’t get alchohol on Sundays 🙂

    I wanted to tell you that I made your oatmeal jam bars with fig jam last night and they were amazing!

  7. Jeanette

    I love the idea of making a recipe from each of my cookbooks – I do try to do that once in a while and I am always happy that I did…it has really expanded my cooking repetoire.

  8. Miz Helen

    This is such a great idea to have Homemade Vanilla, it will be perfect for gifts and to have on hand in the pantry. Thanks for sharing and it is fun cooking with you in the SRC!
    Miz Helen
    Southwest Corn and Potato Soup

  9. Melanie

    I just brought back a load of cookbooks from storage at my parents’ house. I’m going to try the once a week thing! I’m moving again in December, so I think I’ll have to start the vanilla in January. I just need to go figure out what the liquor laws are in Tennessee!

  10. Stephanie

    I have a friend who is a baker, so I now know what I am making for her for Christmas.
    As an aside, I grew up in California where you could get all alcoholic beverages (wine coolers to everclear) at the grocery store or liquor store 24 hours a day. When I lived in Rhode Island it was hard alcohol in the liquor stores (which were closed certain hours of the day and Sundays) and I think beer and wine could be purchased at the grocery store. Down here in Texas, you have some dry counties and some wet counties. In wet counties, you can get beer and wine in the grocery store and corner stores between 7am & 10pm, Monday through Thursday, until midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and not until after 12 noon on Sundays. Hard alcohol can be bought at liquor stores between 9am and 9pm Monday through Saturdays, and not at all on Sundays. In dry counties, you drive to the nearest wet county. 🙂

  11. AndiWinslow

    Love this idea, I am going to try this. Have seen this before just too lazy to try…so thanks for the great post and the inspiration to make our own vanilla. Love the pic also andi the wednesday baker

  12. Angela

    I am so glad I saw your blog on Comment Hour. I love the idea of making my own vanilla extract. I also love the idea of making new recipe from the books I have. You also reminded me to make my banana cake. I’ll back for more of your blog.

  13. Brent

    Excellent post. Homemade vanilla extract can be so much flavorful and pure than the extract available in most stores! It also makes for fantastic gifts during the holiday season.

    One correction: For a true extract, you must use at least 5 vanilla beans per 8 ounces vodka. Any less and you are simply making a strong vanilla vodka.

    I hope this helps!


  14. Angelgirlpj

    Indiana is so relaxed it’s scarey. Go to any grocery store, CVS or Wal-mart and you can get it all. I never liked the thought of going into a liquor store but can buy at CVS ;0) However, I live in a small town where do you get the vanilla beans? This would be great for people who are Gluten intolerant.

  15. Desi

    What a great homemade recipe! I wish vanilla beans weren’t so expensive! I had no idea I could my own homemade version, thanks for sharing. Aren’t alot of store-bought vanilla extracts a darker color? Will yours turn a darker color over time or am I thinking of a different kind of vanilla or extract? Great SRC pick 🙂

  16. Maggie Mahboubian

    Try chopping up the vanilla bean so that you extract as much flavor as you can. It’s ok to use 80 proof (40% alcohol) vodka, but better to use 100 proof (50% alcohol). It helps standardize your extraction so that you can get more or less the same results each time. The alcohol to water ratio of 100 proof is better at extracting the volatile oils from the bean. The lower the proof, the less soluble the menstrum (medium used to extract something).
    Maggie at lalunnaturals.wordpress.com

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