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How to Make Vanilla Extract

You can start making vanilla in the summer and have a nice strong brew to dole out as Christmas presents 6 months later!  Or start a brew anytime (I have some in my cupboard right now). No need to choose expensive vodka but very important to choose high-quality vanilla beans.  Be sure they are a little bendy (moist) and not totally dried up.  You can find vanilla beans at most stores that carry bulk spices or you can order them here

What you need:
Clean 1-quart jar with lid that seals
2 cups (16 oz.) vodka (you may also use brandy) 
6-8 vanilla beans
2 tablespoons rum (optional)
  1. Fill the jar with vodka.
  2. Slice or cut vanilla beans lengthwise.  When open you can see tiny paste-like seeds. Take a sharp knife and scrape each bean pod, being careful to put all of the precious paste in the jar with the vodka.
  3. Close the jar and label it with the date you made it.
  4. Six months later voila vanilla extract.  If you want to add another layer of flavor, add a little dark rum to the mix.
  5. Using a funnel, distribute vanilla into small bottles.

About Vanilla:
  • Vanilla grows on a vine and is the fruit of a flower called the Vanilla plan folia. 
  • The Totonac Indians of Mexico first cultivated this bean. 
  • Pods are hand-harvested while still green,  then hand selected by a Vanilla Expert for premium quality.  The pod is cured for 3 months to ensure the richest flavor and aroma. Curing is achieved by sun-drying the green pods each day and rolling them in blankets at night to "sweat."  This darkens the pod to a deep rich brown color and brings out the unique prized flavor of vanilla.
  • When the Spanish came to Mexico in the 16th century, the Aztecs introduced Cortez to the drink. He brought vanilla and cacao back to Europe where it was enjoyed by only the rich and famous for many years.


hillary mizia
YES! thanks for this. all just clues to the puzzle . . .
August 10, 2011, 12:58 pm

roma fernandes
Hi Cin, where to get vanilla. Thanks
August 10, 2011, 3:25 pm

Wendy Michael
Is there any particular reason to only fill the jar halfway?
August 10, 2011, 4:10 pm

Cynthia Lair
Hi Wendy - just too big of a jar. You definitely need 6-8 beans per two cups so you could fill the quart jar to the top and double the # of beans.
August 10, 2011, 4:21 pm

Cynthia Lair
roma - just added purchasing info including a link where you can buy beans. Thanks for the heads up.
August 10, 2011, 4:23 pm

jami brazille
Awesome, cant wait to try it, also going to send to my daughter, she may already know how to make it as she went to culinary school, but gonna send it anyway, they didnt teach her everything about cooking after all.
August 14, 2011, 8:05 pm

Barbi Barbi
Nothing I could say would give you undue cedirt for this story.
December 2, 2011, 12:31 am

Anne Welsbacher
What's the benefit of brandy instead of vodka? Is the end result tastier? Also: do you have a recipe for a nonalcoholic version?
January 15, 2016, 9:55 am

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