Looking for a great gift for the foodie in your life (or for yourself)? A bottle of homemade vanilla extract is practical, personal, perfect!
Have you ever read the ingredient label on vanilla extract? “Pure” vanilla extract can often contain sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings and caramel color. Once you make your own vanilla extract, you will never want to go back to store-bought. It's easy, economical, and the result is pure and delicious. With the holidays coming up, you can start now and have the ideal gift for your dinner club friends and all the other people in your life who care about great flavor as much as you do.
Flavored extracts are most often made using a base of alcohol. Vanilla extract is typically made with vodka when a pure vanilla flavor is desired. A rum or bourbon-based version will yield a richer and more complex flavor. Whichever type of spirit you use, select a high-quality liquor that’s at least 35% alcohol, and consider buying organic.
Buy your vanilla beans from the best possible source: Look for fresh, whole beans from a trusted seller. Select soft, pliable, and tender beans. It will be much cheaper to buy your beans in bulk than to purchase them individually at retail.
Make up your batch of vanilla in whatever container you choose, but best results are obtained with a glass jar or bottle that will seal tightly, such as a swing top bottle. Make sure your bottle is sterilized and completely dry before you begin to make your vanilla.
If you have any leftover beans, store them in a sealed glass jar. Keep your beans away from light and heat, but do not refrigerate or freeze them. Some experts say to open the jar every few weeks to let the air circulate among the beans. Stored properly, beans can last up to a year, depending on how old they were when you bought them.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Yield: 32 ounces vanilla extract
- 24–32 vanilla beans, or to taste
- 1 quart premium, organic vodka
- Storage jar(s)
Use a sharp knife to split the bean in half, leaving about 1/2" at each end intact.
Put vanilla beans into your glass bottle or jar and cover completely with vodka.
Close jar or bottle and store in a cool, dry place for a minimum of 6–8 weeks. Give the bottle a shake every week or so. After 6 weeks the vanilla will be ready to use and the beans can be removed or—if they are submerged in alcohol—may be left in the jar. Vanilla extracted in alcohol will last indefinitely, but over time the vanilla beans will need to be replaced, as they will lose some of their flavor.
Now that you have a batch of yummy custom-made vanilla, it’s time to use it in a recipe where it can shine!
Vanilla Matcha Smoothie
Yield: 2 servings
- 3 cups almond milk, preferably homemade
- 2 bananas, peeled and frozen
- 2 scoops Classic Plus protein powder
- 2–4 Medjool dates, pitted
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ½ teaspoons matcha powder, culinary grade
- 1 avocado, pitted and peeled
Blend all ingredients until smooth.