I’ve run through my first bottle of homemade vanilla extract and thought I would share with you how I make it.  It is so easy and the results are SO much better than store-bought vanilla extract – much tastier and also less expensive.  If you like to bake, this is so worthwhile.
Here’s what you need:
  • 2 or more dark-coloured glass bottles – I like these 8 oz Amber Boston Round Glass Bottle w/ cap
  • 1 package of vanilla beans – I used these Premium Madagascar Vanilla Beans (one order of these beans will make 4 bottles of extract)
  • 1 bottle of brandy: my great-aunt taught me how to make it, which is why I use brandy – that’s what she used.  She recommended E&J as a good cooking brandy.  I don’t know anything about brandy, but I’m told it’s not a drinking brandy, so keep that in mind.  A little research online shows that you can also use bourbon, rum, cognac or vodka. I’ve made it with cognac and really like the results.
Take your vanilla beans out of the package,  slice them lengthwise and put them in the bottle. You may need to slice them in half or thirds to fit into the bottle, or do as I did and fold them in half and smoosh (why is spell-check telling me “smoosh” isn’t a word?) them into the bottle. I used about 8 beans per bottle – better to use too many than too few!  Fill the bottle with brandy and make a note of the date.  Your delicious homemade vanilla extract will be ready in about 8 weeks.
I used these chalkboard labels and a chalk pen to label my vanilla with the date it would be ready.  I made two bottles the first time, and I just finished using one of those, so I added another bean and filled it up with brandy again.  It should be ready at the end of October, just in time for holiday baking season.  In the meantime, I still have the other bottle which is ready now.  I made 4 bottles the first time and kept 2 for myself.  I gave the other two to friends who also love to bake.
I add vanilla extract to nearly every recipe when baking, and I usually add twice what the recipe indicates. I also use it when making pancakes, homemade hot chocolate, oatmeal and more.  I love the flavor – there’s something so warm, cozy and comforting about it.
You can use any leftover vanilla beans to make homemade vanilla bean ice cream if you are the ice-cream making type.  Or use them to flavor heavy cream and make vanilla-flavored whipped cream which is delicious on anything or just eaten on its own.  You can also stick a few beans into a glass container of sugar for your own vanilla sugar.  Or scrape out the inside of the vanilla beans to add a delicious vanilla scent to your coconut sea salt shower scrub.
Have you ever made your own vanilla extract or anything else with vanilla beans?  What did you think?
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