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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Who knew? How to...Homemade Vanilla

I'm going to leap ahead of Thanksgiving for just a moment here. No disrespect to Thanksgiving or anything, I just need to share this Homemade Vanilla with you so, if you choose,  you can get started on your own batch for holiday gift giving. Fun!

So, homemade vanilla, where to start? Well, there are tons of recipes out there for making it and they really don't vary too much. Alcohol, vanilla beans, glass bottles and time. I decided in September that I would be gifting this homemade brew to family and friends for Christmas, so I speedy quick ordered my supplies so I could get started promptly. Supplies arrived and then they sat around for awhile before I finally put it into gear and started my batch. Almost three and a half weeks ago. 

You've got to love some sweet,sweet procrastination. 

Surely you won't get yourself stunted by procrastination, so here's what you can do today to get started...get your supplies.

I purchased my Madagascar Vanilla Beans here. They came very promptly and were super fragrant, inexpensive and wonderful. My four ounce glass bottles were ordered online from SKS Bottle and Packaging. Again, fast delivery and quality product. And when I was finally ready to get this project started, I hoofed it over to my local liquor store and grabbed a big fat bottle of vodka. 

Supplies purchased, let's make vanilla.

The making is simple, open vodka bottle and insert vanilla beans (one bean per four ounces of liquor). My method, however, takes advantage of those glorious, tiny vanilla seeds within each bean. I scraped the majority of those seeds out of the bean and placed them into the vodka to help saturate the vodka with as much flavor possible, instantly. 

So, I carefully split each bean open, starting about 1/2" from the top of the bean and stopping my slice about 1/2" from the bottom of the bean. Then I scraped the seeds out and plopped them into the bottle. Then I placed the whole bean into the bottle.

This bottle contained just a bit over 59 ounces, so 15 beans and their scraped seeds went in. 

Put that cap back on, shake that bottle up and put that baby in a cool, dark place for some weeks (like 5-8 weeks, or more). You should also shake the bottle every day or two to help the process along. You'll be amazed how quickly your vodka changes. The bottles below are just three weeks along and they're already beginning to look rich and lovely.

After three weeks, I decided to fill my (sterilized) bottles. How cute are these? I used a small funnel to help with the pouring. I placed a bit of cheesecloth layered inside the funnel to catch any bits and pieces of the beans that may have broken off during the daily shaking while still allowing many of those small vanilla seeds to pass through. More seeds=more flavor! 

After all the bottles were filled, I removed the beans from the large vodka bottle and placed one in each little bottle. Lids on, labels made and slapped onto each bottle, they were put back into their cool, dark place until gift giving time.

So how does this Homemade Vanilla compare to others? Let's take a look...

The price of other fancy four ounce bottles of vanilla:
Penseys Spices Single Strength Vanilla - $13.99
Williams Sonoma Mexican Pure Vanilla - $12.95
Sur la Table Pure Madagascar Vanilla - $9.50
Simply Organic Pure Vanilla Extract - $16.47

The price breakdown for 15 four ounces bottles (including any shipping cost) of the best Homemade Vanilla:
1.75L + 2 ounces Vodka - $29.00 or $1.93 per four ounce bottle
15 Madagascar Vanilla Beans (32 beans came in my package) - $ .50 per bean
15 four ounces glass bottles and lids (24 bottles/lids came in my order) - $1.51 per bottle

Our total cost per bottle: $3.94!!!!  

Are you ready to get your own batch started? Get going, get going! And enjoy!


What you'll need:

Homemade Vanilla
(recipe makes approximately 15 four ounces bottles, 
our ratio - 4 ounces of vodka:1 vanilla bean)

1.75 L + 2 ounces of Vodka
15 vanilla beans (I used Madagascar vanilla beans)
15 four ounces sterilized glass bottles with air tight lids

To start, carefully split each of your beans open, starting about 1/2" from the top of the bean and stopping the slice about 1/2" from the bottom of the bean. Scrape the seeds out and place them into the bottle of vodka. Next, place the whole bean into the bottle. After you've scraped all the beans, cap your bottle and shake to distribute the seeds and beans.

Place your bottle in a cool, dark place for 5-8 weeks, or longer. The longer you can steep your beans, the stronger the vanilla flavor. When you're ready, funnel your vanilla into sterilized individual bottles. Place a piece of folded cheesecloth into the funnel, before pouring, to catch any small pieces of bean that could have torn free from the bean during steeping and daily shaking. Place one vanilla bean into each individual bottle. Cap, label and give an amazing homemade gift to family and friends.


  1. You have me convinced that this is the best way to go on real vanilla. I have a friend whose parents live in Tahiti and every time she visits them, she comes back with bundles of vanilla beans. I'll definitely have to try this next time!

  2. Do you know if the quality of vodka makes a noticeable difference in flavor? Should I aim to use a mid-level vodka, for example, or will the cheap stuff have the same result?

    1. Hi there! I'm not a vodka connoisseur by any stretch, so when making vanilla I have chosen what I thought was a good product but wasn't very expensive (I used Smirnoff). I would suggest that no matter what brand you use make sure it is at least 80 proof and you should be very, very pleased with your end result!


    2. I forgot to login when I left the question. Thanks for the reply!