Tuesday, May 17, 2016


2nd Man reminded me the other day that he's running low on vanilla extract and it was time to start a new batch so he'd have enough for Fall baking.  It was a rainy day so the timing was perfect!  

We've been doing this for years and it's much more economical than buying the tiny and expensive bottles at the store.  We've posted about this in prior years but for those new to the blog, here is a new post about it.

All you need is a bottle of Vodka...and 10 to 20 vanilla beans.

Get the vanilla beans onto a cutting board and open your vodka...

Pour off about half a cup of the vodka and set aside.  This is to allow space for the addition of the beans...

Slice beans lengthwise to expose the interior (be careful, they are small)...

After you slice them in half, drop the beans into the bottle...

 Pour the remaining vodka into the bottle, if it doesn't all fit, well, do whatever you wish with the extra... :-)

Homemade Vanilla Extract
That's it!  

Shake well and put in a cool, dark place.  Take it out and shake it once a week or so and just otherwise leave it alone.  It will be ready in about three months but we like to give it five to six months.  This will be ready in October/November...just in time for Fall baking!

UPDATE:  Several of you asked where I bought the beans.  Yes they are expensive at the store so we order online.  

We get ours from HERE AT TOPVANILLA.COM 

We don't get anything in return for mentioning them, this is just where we have always bought them. Prices fluctuate from year to year, depending on costs (and vanilla has gone up recently).  But they always sell fresh, shrink sealed, Madagascar beans (the best). 

Homemade Vanilla
Since I did it, after semi-daily shaking, here is what it looks like...already turning a darker color.  If you have any questions, ask away!  


  1. Have been wanting to do that as well but at the grocery store you get 2 beans to a jar - $10.00. Bit pricey for me. Would be better price if I could find them in bulk somewhere.
    So, where do you get your vanilla beans?
    Oh, did you know that vanilla should be stored in amber jars instead of clear?
    Yes, have read that the longer it sets the better the vanilla flavor gets.
    This reminds me; I should be making some mint extract. Heaven knows I have plenty of mint growing now. I have my mint growing in Very Large container so that it doesn't take over and grow crazy on me.

    1. Oh, yes, way too pricey, I updated the post with the website link. Have ordered from here for several years, never any problems. And as you can see, you get much more for your money.

      We sometimes transfer over to amber, but since we keep it in the dark pantry 99% of the time, it's usually been ok. When we give as gifts, we put in small amber jars.

  2. What a great idea! Gotta look for some reasonably-priced vanilla beans and try this. Thanks!

    Colleen, how do you make your mint extract? I have lots growing in pots also.

    1. This is 1st Man's blog so out of respect to him, click onto my name and send me an email and I would be more than happy to send you the mint extract recipe but I will not post a recipe here without 1st Man's permission see how this is His territory.

    2. No problem at all ladies, heck I'd like to see it too! Been thinking of planting some mint (in containers) and would like to know some good uses for it. Feel free to post or email us, either way is fine!!

    3. Texas Rose, I updated the post with the link. And yes, I'd like Colleen to let us know about her mint extract. It's ok, no worries!

  3. Wow, I had no idea it was this easy, thank you for this info. It looks yummy, and we love vanilla around here. Do you strain it?

  4. Thank You 1st Man.
    I like making different extracts to put in gift baskets during the holidays.
    Basically the main ingredient of course is Vodka. In making vanilla Vodka has the most neutral flavor, but you can also use bourbon, brandy, or even rum.
    Ok, now onto the Mint Extract
    1 cup vodka
    1 cup mint leaves, packed and removed from the stem
    Pick the mint leaves from their stems; wash and dry well with paper towels.
    You will want about 1 cup, packed and roughly broken up or crush and smash them in your hands to release the oil from the mint.
    Add the leaves to a nice clean, sterilized jar.
    Fill the jar ( I use pint size jar)with 1 cup of vodka making sure All the mint leaves are completely covered and cap tightly. Give it a good shake and set aside in cool, dark place.
    Let this steep for at least 4 weeks - 8 weeks.
    After the 4 weeks time, I suggest you strain the leaves and discarding them.
    Bottle up the finished extract.
    Lemon Extract:
    I can't wait to make this using my Meyer Lemon but that won't be till next year as I don't let the fruit set on the first year of planting but those interested in lemon extract here goes.
    Peel thin strips of zest of lemon; removing any and All of the white pith. If not removed it will be bitter tasting.)
    Place the yellow zest strips in glass bottle
    Add vodka, filling up to the neck of the bottle
    Every few days, tilt your bottle upside down to gently mix the liquid inside.
    After about 6 weeks you should have some very nice lemon extract.
    Orange Extract
    Peel thin strips of zest from 1/2 orange
    Place zest in glass bottle
    Add vodka filling to neck of the bottle
    Every few days, tilt your bottle upside down and gently mix the liquid inside.
    After about 6 weeks you have extract.
    ( I think with citrus peel the acid ( and alcohol bath) it's probably safe
    to leave the peels inside the bottle like you would your vanilla beans for re-fill purposes.
    If you don't feel right about doing this, take it out.)
    Hazelnut Extract
    1 cup Hazelnuts; toasted and skins removed
    1 split vanilla bean
    3/4 cup vodka
    Add Hazelnuts to jar, vodka, vanilla bean and seeds
    Close and leave set for 3-4 weeks
    Strain Hazelnuts from extract.
    Almond Extract ( my favorite as I use A lot of Almond Extract)
    You just repeat the process above for the Hazelnut extract only substituting freshly ground toasted almonds instead.
    Steep 3-4 weeks; shaking the jar lightly once a day to stir up the almonds.
    Lime Extract
    Remove the rind from 3 medium limes and remove ALL the white pith
    Chop up the remaining rind and pour into a jar with 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup vodka.
    Place in cool, dry place for 1 week
    Strain out the peel before using.
    Strawberry Extract
    Wash and hull 1 pound of strawberries and slice thin.
    Place in a pan over medium heat and bring to a boil with 1 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar.
    Simmer for 30 minutes.
    Strain out the strawberries with cheesecloth.
    Return the liquid to the pan and simmer until the berry water has reduced to a syrup.
    Allow to cool.
    (I can't wait till my strawberries to produce so that I can make some of this)

    There you go my friends; a few recipes to get you going in making your very own extracts. Making your own, you know what goes into each and every one.

    1. You are awesome, thank you for this. Dang, I might just have to try these and make a post (for those that don't read the comments all the time).

    2. Thank you Colleen for sharing your wonderful recipes! And thank you 1st Man for generously sharing your space. And for the online source for vanilla beans. I do a LOT of baking in the Fall/Winter.

      I can't wait for the fall/winter when my Meyer lemons, Key limes, and oranges produce so I can make the other extracts. I'm always looking for new ways to use my fruit. Thank you!

  5. Thank you 1st Man for allowing me to post / share these recipes.
    Now, all I need to do is go buy me a case or two of vodka along with more bottles so that I can be making extracts when not able to work outside :}
    If interested here are a couple more recipes.
    Chocolate Extract
    1 cup vodka
    1/4 cup cocoa powder (use high quality dark chocolate for the best flavor)
    Place cocoa powder and vodka in a clean glass jar or bottle. Mix well.
    Leave them in a cool dark cabinet for 6 to 8 weeks or longer.
    Strain mixture to remove any cocoa powder.
    Coconut Extract
    1-1/2 cups freshly grated coconut
    2 cup vodka
    Drain coconut water and grate fresh coconut shavings and add them to a clean glass jar or bottle.
    Leave them in a cool dark cabinet for 6 to 8 weeks or longer.
    Strain mixture to remove any coconut shavings after extraction process.
    Berry Extract
    3/4 cup berries (i.e., blueberry, raspberry, strawberry)
    1 cup vodka
    Add berries and vodka to a clean glass jar.
    Leave them in a cool dark cabinet for 6 to 8 weeks or longer.
    Strain mixture to remove any coconut shavings after extraction process.

    1. OOPS! Just noticed that I posted the Strawberry Syrup recipe instead of the extract. Sorry about that.
      Strawberry Extract
      Making small-batch strawberry extract at home is easy, but has one drawback: time. It takes at least one month to make strawberry extract, and up to two months for a stronger flavor but then it's pretty normal for any extracts. Extracts last indefinitely, but the flavor diminishes after about a year.
      Important thing to remember; Always sterilize your jars.
      Strawberry Extract
      Fresh strawberries
      80-proof alcohol
      Dark glass bottle with stopper
      Rinse the strawberries for several minutes under cool running water, and let them drain in a colander for a few minutes.
      Sterilize a clean jar and lid by boiling them for 10 minutes, or washing them with 1/4 tablespoon of all-purpose bleach mixed with 1 quart of water and then rinsing it off.
      Slice the strawberries 1/4 inch thick. Pack them in the sterilized jar. Cover the strawberries with 80-proof alcohol. Neutral spirits like vodka produce the purest taste; use brandy, rum or whiskey for additional flavor.
      Seal the jar and place it in a cool cupboard for 1-2 months. Shake the jar once a week. Steep the strawberries one month for a moderate strawberry flavor and two months for a strong flavor. Taste the strawberry extract after one month.
      Strain the strawberry extract through a sieve lined with three or four layers of cheesecloth and into a measuring cup. Pour the extract into a sterilized dark bottle with a rubber stopper. Store the extract in a cupboard.

    2. Thank you for this, love when friends share these wonderful things.

  6. well, look at all the wonderful recipes out here! and all involving vodka...(wink wink)

    1. I know, right? I hope I get some actual work done, ha.

  7. Homemade vanilla extract is truly the best - I've been making my own for years and would never go back.

    1. Same here, we did our first bottle about 5 years ago, and would never go back..

  8. 1st and 2nd Man, I love making my own vanilla instead of buying it. Thank you for the source on purchasing vanilla bean over the internet.

    1. They have sold us our vanilla beans for several years, they are very good (so far anyway, ha). Isn't it fun though to make your own?

  9. Possibly stupid question alert? Do you use the vanilla extract straight from the jar, just the same as you would store bought? Thank you!

    1. Not stupid at all...we use it both ways. 2nd Man is ok with the small flecks of vanilla seeds, they are very tiny. The whole pods don't slide out because you pour slow. However, we do strain it at times. Easiest way is to pour through a coffee filter. When we decant this to give as gifts, we do that. You can do that to if you'd prefer. Just pour out through a filter and into a different bottle/jar. Enjoy!!

  10. Vodka never tasted so good...
    Thank you First Man, thank you Colleen.

    1. No problem and yes, thank you Colleen!

  11. Replies
    1. I wasn't sure, I've only ever seen it with vodka (and that's all we've used) but I found this:

      "Vodka is the commonly preferred choice for making vanilla extract because it gives the extract a more pure vanilla flavor that is not masked by the alcohol base. However, any alcohol with at least 80 percent proof can be used as a medium."

      hope that helps!!

  12. i always have homemade vanilla in my pantry!

  13. Thank you for this post...we are in a dry county but next trip to the city I will be getting vodka and Vanilla Beans. How long does it keep?

    1. We've used a bottle for a year, being in alcohol it won't really go bad. If you wanted to, filtering it out into smaller bottles would probably extend the life, a couple years I would think.

  14. I'll keep it simple and drink the vodka. I don't bake much anymore.


    1. I LIKE how you think! Hey I leave the baking to 2nd Man and I'll "make the vanilla", ha.

  15. Thank you so very much for your how to and where to buy. I made extract with bourbon and found the underlying bourbon flavor a little overpowering for delicate cookies and such . (But perfectly wonderful in chocolate chip cookies or pecan pie) So I am going to infuse a huge bottle of vodka this time. Ordering the beans tomorrow.

    1. No problem at all. It's SO easy and so rewarding in the end. I mean, who doesn't want a giant bottle of vanilla extract, ha. I've heard of people using bourbon and they said the same thing. Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans are also sometimes what people think of with bourbon in the name too. Glad you liked the post, thank you so much. Good luck!!

  16. I started making vanilla this way a few years ago. It works great. I might have to make smaller batches of these various extracts. Thanks, Colleen, for posting the recipes.

    1. Isn't it wonderful? We'll never go back to store bought. And yes, Colleen had some great recipes, we can't wait to try them!!

  17. Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." - Proverbs 16:23-25

    1. Aw, thanks for sharing, you are, of course, awesome!


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