How to Make Vanilla Extract:
The One-Step Method
Often, when I order vanilla beans, I put them directly into a jar with vodka. The alcohol goes to work for me, drawing all the goodness from those scrumptious beans. I shake the jar here and there and a few weeks later I have homemade vanilla!
This simple "make ahead" method is a great and very fast way to make homemade vanilla extract and I've got a tutorial all about it here. It's amazing to have a jar of vanilla steeping away in the pantry for year round homemade gifts and also for your own baking needs.
Homemade vanilla is an easy homemade gift idea! However, if you don't have several weeks to spare before gift giving time, I recommend the one-step method on this page, which steeps the vanilla beans right in the gift giving jars... and by-the-way, has it's own special perks too.
Below, you can learn how to make vanilla extract using this easy one-step method... so you can make it today, give it tomorrow!
Where to Get Great Vanilla Beans
Vanilla beans get dry and stale fast, so most grocery stores only carry them during the Holidays and often charge a pretty penny as well. If you order vanilla beans online, you get fresher beans and they cost way less.
I used to always go for this deal: 10 Premium Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans which I've truly enjoyed. They've always been top quality beans, as moist, sticky and fragrant as I could ever hope for (and beautiful too).
Recently I realized that I don't need grade A vanilla beans to make scrumptious homemade vanilla extract (or homemade Kahlua for that matter). I am now using grade B for these. The beans aren't as perfect looking and they will be be drier in comparison to Grade A, but the vanilla flavor is actually in the oils, not the water content. The lack of moisture is actually a good thing for making amazing homemade vanilla extract and the cost is much less for more vanilla beans. 1/4 Pound LB Madagascar Bourbon Planifolia Extract Grade B Vanilla Beans 6~7"
Not Sure Which Vanilla Beans to Use? I use the full flavored sweet tasting Bourbon Madagascar vanilla bean for my food gifts, however, you can also use Mexican. I use Tahitian for bath and body (Tahitian is more of an aromatic vanilla bean and can be described as slightly floral in aroma).
Now that you hopefully have some fragrant sticky vanilla beans coming in the mail, let's talk about exactly how to make vanilla extract...
How to Make Vanilla Extract
Here's how to make vanilla extract using this quick one-step method...
How to Make Vanilla Extract Step-by-Step:
Let's Get Started...
How long to Infuse? It depends on how often you shake the jars. Since these are gifts, I usually put the "best after date" at least 2 months from the date I started the infusions. The vanilla "tip tags" I made explain that the infusion will continue to increase in strength as the beans steep. They also explain that the vanilla can last for many many years if you keep adding vodka as you use the vanilla.
Wondering what I mean by lasts for years and years? The shelf life of vanilla is explained well here. It should last indefinitely with proper storage.
More Tips: Vodka is the alcohol of choice when making extracts because of it's neutral flavor. If you are feeling adventurous, you can trade out the vodka for brandy or rum. You can also add just a splash of something different.
Wondering how to make vanilla extract that is Gluten Free? It's super easy! First of all, most midrange to high quality plain unflavored vodka is already gluten free (since it is made by distilling corn or potatoes)... it is important to note that some of the really cheap vodkas are now made with grain and would not be gluten free.
If you are concerned with making sure your vanilla extract is gluten free you can either find out what was used to distill your vodka or choose a vodka that is actually certified gluten free.
I use plain unflavored Smirnoff, which is not actually certified gluten free, but is known to be gluten free, since it is made by distilling corn and has no added ingredients that gluten could be hiding in.
Print Labels. Once you have learned how to make vanilla extract, be sure to print out the free homemade vanilla extract labels that go with this project. They are:
Print Tip Tags. You can also use these vanilla "tip tags" if they are helpful. I've mailed many jars of homemade vanilla extract and these tip tags are a convenient way to communicate how to get the most out of this homemade vanilla extract.
...As shown, the round tags can be punched easily with a 2" round craft punch like this one... Fiskars Round 'n Round Sqeeze Punch Extra Large (174140-1001)
How to Make Vanilla Extract Year Round...
If it's any month besides November or December, you might like to make vanilla extract using the QUICKEST method... which is perfect for year round gift giving: Homemade Vanilla Extract all Year Long plus I share more printable homemade vanilla gift tags.
Homemade Kahlua is another scrumptious thing to do with vanilla and vodka and makes great gifts for adults... Plus, you can sink an extra vanilla bean in the bottle and your homemade Kahlua will keep getting more and more powerful with the delicious flavor of real vanilla right from the bean.
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