Southern Girl Creations

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I am so excited y'all!!!  I actually got started on making Christmas presents today.  One of my gifts this year is going to be homemade vanilla extract.  So, Aunt Peggy, Tatum, Momma, Susan...if you are reading this you can finish but please immediately forget that is is going to be one of your presents...

What you need:
Gallon Jar
100 whole Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans ( I purchased mine from Vanilla Products on eBay Click Here for Link)
1 gallon of vodka ( this is two of the 1.75 liter bottles)
Kitchen shears or very sharp knife

Have read almost 100 different articles on making vanilla at this time so I am going to share with you what I gathered from all that information and how I am making mine. 

Buying the vodka... Yes, I hauled into the liquor store to purchase a gallon of vodka.  I had already read all I could about the quality of vodka you should buy for this little project.  If you get to reading about making vanilla extract some articles will tell you that the cheap stuff is fine some will tell you to go with the more expensive.. I decided to go middle of the road with mine or should I say middle shelf.  Not the cheapest not the most expensive.  When I approached the lady at the checkout I decided that she needed to know that I was using all that vodka to make vanilla extract not to drink, so I proceeded in telling her.  She still gave me the "whatever you lush,  I don't care if you drink it all in the parking lot" look.. 

I got the following information about how many beans to use from Here. but my summary is below...

Vanilla extract is made by transferring the flavor and aromas of vanilla beans into alcohol (usually vodka, but sometimes brandy or rum). Vodka is the alcohol of choice because it has a neutral flavor. Other liquors can be used, but they contribute flavors of their own. Commercial extracts use a neutral flavored grain alcohol (vodka), but you are free to use rum, brandy, gin, whatever.

How many beans are used per unit of alcohol? This is an easy one - its regulated by US law. Really!
From the FDA 21CFR169:

Extract is 70 proof/35% alcohol.

Extract contains 13.35 oz. of bean per gallon of alcohol. It seems that 13.35 oz of bean need merely to be exposed to the alcohol, not that this amount of matter is extracted/dissolved into the alcohol, I await confirmation and will update accordingly.

Moisture content of beans should be under 25%, more beans are required when moisture is higher.
Remember, the quality of the beans doesn't matter for these regulated proportions, only the weight

In plain English:

"13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of extract is single fold (single strength) vanilla extract. As most vanilla beans are ~120/pound or 7.5 beans per ounce of weight. A gallon of extract is 128 fluid ounces, so that would mean ~98 beans per gallon or SIX (6) whole beans to make ONE cup (8 fluid ounces) of single fold vanilla extract...Anyone who tells you any differently is just teaching you how to make vanilla flavored booze." kieth -
Take that point to heart! Recipes on the web are all over the place: some call for 1 bean in a gallon of brandy left for one year, others call for 2-4 beans per cup with 1-6 months soak time. Few come anywhere close to reaching the 'legal' requirements of an extract.
I counted out 100 beans from my 1lb that I ordered.  I then used my kitchen shears to split the beans in half leaving about 1 inch at the end uncut so the bean stays together. After they were split I placed them in the Jar.
Note: Bruce from Vanilla Products (Click here for link to Vanilla Products on Ebay) where I purchased the beans suggested cutting the beans into 1/2 inch pieces.  This is how the commercial makers of vanilla extract prepare their beans.

This was a bit time consuming but my fingers smelled really good when I was finished.  When All 100 beans were split and in the jar it was time to add the vodka..

The two bottles of vodka filled the Gallon Jar up right to the top.

I placed the lid on tightly and gave the jar a little shake. Then I placed it in the back of the pantry(you can put it anywhere cool and dark).  You need to shake it at least once every week or two and let it steep for 6 months!  If you hurry you can start yours and get it ready for Christmas too!!

Once the 6 months is up you need to strain the liquid in a coffee filter.  Bottle it up in pretty bottles with labels and give as gifts. I will update you once a month so you can see how it is going. 

Until next time....

Linking Up to:


Anonymous said...

Ooh, I'm so excited. I want to join you!! What a fun, unique and thoughtful gift idea.

Fabric Bows and More said...

I want to do this too but do not want to go and purchase the vodka lol! Please stop by and join our link party:

Jade Cahoon said...

Oh my goodness! LOVE this idea...just purchased my vanilla beans from the same site you did! I can't wait for them to get in so I can start the process! (I just hope to make enough for me, too!) haha - this will be perfect for all the girl gifts this Christmas! Thank you for the awesome idea and info! I'm your newest follower! :)

Jade Cahoon said...

I LOVE this idea!!! I just purchased my beans from the same site as you...I can't wait to get started! This will make the perfect girl gifts this Christmas! Thank you so much for the awesome idea and info! I'm your newest follower! :)
Jade C. @ Sweet Street

Chad and Mary Beth @ Nothing But Country said...

This is awesome. Making your own extract. I want to make this as well. I bet it tastes sooo much better.

Would love if you would stop by and link up your creative project with us at Nothing But Country. Would love to share this project with our readers too.

Happy Creating. :) Thanks for sharing your project.

Anonymous said...

thank you! I followed your link and just purchased some (NO procrastination allowed if it takes 6 mo.!!) I am excited about this project!
Michelle from

Lindsay @ Delighted Momma said...

Okay you are WAY ahead of the game if you are already getting started on Christmas presents! Way to go!! What a lovely personalized gift this is.

idesign said...

wow this is really cool! thanks for the link to those vanilla beans, those suckers are expensive at the grocery store!

found you over at someday crafts, stop by for a visit sometime :)

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