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How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

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I have been working on this little project for the last couple of months, because I wanted to make sure it was worth you making the effort to do it in time for Christmas. It definitely is! If you have never made homemade vanilla extract before, you should...at least once. It makes a great Christmas present, and once you taste it you won't want the cheap imitation anymore!


To make your own vanilla extract, you will need to assemble some supplies. You may need to order some of the supplies online because it's hard to find some of these things in stores, especially the cute brown bottles to store the vanilla extract in.

If you are doing this for Christmas gifts, you should be able to get the vanilla beans locally (although they are cheaper online). Go ahead and get the vanilla extract started because it needs to sit for a month or so before you give it as a gift for Christmas. You can order the bottles in a couple of weeks if you can't get to it now.

vanilla extract

To make homemade vanilla extract you will need:

  • Vodka
  • Vanilla beans
  • Bottles
  • Labels

Making the vanilla extract is in fact very simple. All you have to do is drop some vanilla beans in a bottle of vodka and let it sit for a couple of weeks, ideally 4-6 weeks. The longer you let it sit the better the flavor.

If you are doing this just for yourself you can just drop the vanilla beans in the bottle of vodka (any inexpensive brand is fine) and then you can either use it directly out of that bottle or place it in another smaller bottle and keep refilling it with fresh vodka as you use it.

Most people recommend placing 8-10 vanilla beans in the bottle of vodka. Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise before you put them in. If you don't want to use an entire bottle of vodka, fill up a quart sized canning jar with vodka and place 5-6 split vanilla beans in the jar. That is what I decided to do. Place the jar or bottle in a dark cupboard and just let it sit. Once a week or so you want to take the bottle out and shake it up a little bit to distribute the flavor throughout the jar.

My vanilla extract has been sitting for at least 6 weeks, and it smells wonderful. You can definitely smell the vodka but it also has a nice vanilla scent. Don't worry, whatever you are cooking won't take on the flavor of the alcohol, just the vanilla. It is so much better than the cheaper imitation verson.

When the extract is ready you can pour it into some smaller bottles to give away as gifts. On Amazon you can get these great 4 oz. glass bottles for about $1 each. They come in packages of 12. Before you pour it into the bottles, however, pour it through a fine strainer or cheesecloth to remove any small pieces of vanilla that are floating in the jar.

If you want to put a cute label on your bottle, I did a lot of research on how to best do that. Most pre-made labels that you can buy at the office supply store are too big to place on a 4 oz. bottle. After doing some searching around I found this sticker paper made by Avery. I couldn't find it at the store but you can get it from Amazon. It is just what it says, full sheets of sticker paper that you can run through your printer. You can design whatever size label you want and print it on the paper. I can't wait to make the labels for my bottles. Here is one label I thought was really neat, and here is another label I found that is free to print. I think I am going to use those for my bottles.

For about $2, you can also purchase a mini funnel like this one that will fit into the top of the 4 oz. bottles. This makes filling the bottles a lot easier.

If you can't find any vanilla beans locally, you can also buy them in bulk from Amazon. I have never seen them cheaper than this. You can usually only buy them two or three at a time at the grocery store, and they will cost you about $10. The ones from Amazon are a really good deal.

So that's all there is to it. It will take longer to make the bottles look pretty than to actually prepare the extract. You have to make these at least once, your family and friends will be very impressed with your homemade Christmas present!

Copyright 2014, Creative Homemaking, LLC. This article may not be reprinted.

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Rachel Paxton
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