Monday, August 02, 2010

homemade vanilla extract

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Today I made homemade vanilla extract.  I've had several online friends rave about homemade vanilla extract.  They say it's cheaper, and that it tastes better.  How can I loose on this?

I did some looking around the internet to find the right proportion of alcohol to vanilla.

Most places recommend using vodka, or an alcohol that is 80 proof (40% alcohol).  I saw bean to cup of alcohol ratios ranging from 1 to 8 beans.  I opted for something right in the middle - 3 beans per cup.

The vodka I selected is Vodka 360.  Honestly, I just guessed about what to pick.  I'm not a drinker of alcohol, so I had to rely on reading reviews and recommendations.  I stumbled upon this brand in my local grocery store.  I was attracted to the appearance of eco-friendliness, the fact that is it a relatively locally made product (Weston, MO), and I loved that the bottle came with a reusable stopper. The shelf price is $15.99 for 750 mL.

I purchased my organic vanilla beans through a wholesale coop. I got 29 beans (1/4 pound) for about $22.50.

I cut the beans lengthwise, leaving the top 1 inch connected together. I was a little surprised at how long the beans were - I just put my hand in there to give some reference.  Although, hands come in a variety of different sizes too, so I'm not sure how helpful this really is.

I was also surprised at how small the vanilla seeds were.  I guess I expected something like a green bean seed from a pod that size? Anyway, those little specks are all seeds.  

I put 10 beans in the bottle (I needed to decant a little less than 1/4 cup of the alcohol to fit them in). I resealed and shook it up.

According to various internet instructions, the vanilla should be left to soak for at least 8 weeks, but the longer, the stronger it gets. The bottle should be shaken every few days, and left to do its work in a cool, dark place.

The beans can be reused for a long time - they say when the bottle is 3/4 full, to add more vodka, and it will keep replenishing the stock.

Now that I have my lovely beans soaking, I have to wait, wait, wait. I'll test it out in about 2 months, and see what my results are.

Note: after I started my vanilla extract, I did some further looking and came across Vanilla Review.
There's a recipe there that suggests I might want to add more beans to my bottle.  The information on this site differs quite a bit from others floating around the internet.

Here's the financial breakdown for this experiment:

At my local Wal-Mart, I paid $2.33 for one ounce of Watkins Pure Vanilla extract. ($2.33/oz)
Through my local wholesale buying club, I paid $7.28 for 4 ounces of certified organic vanilla extract. ($1.82/oz)

Vodka - $15.99
Vanilla beans - .78 each, or $7.76 for 10

Total: $23.75

750 mL makes about 25 ounces of vanilla extract, so our price per ounce of homemade vanilla extract is $.95/oz.

The vodka actually had a mail in rebate for $10.  Counting that, our price drops to about $.55 per ounce of homemade vanilla extract.

That's a huge savings!  I'll go through more than four ounces of vanilla in a year.  At that rate, this stash should last me at least 5 years. Don't be surprised if I start finding ways to use more vanilla extract, though!

I still have almost 20 beans left. Now I need to find some creative uses for those.  Homemade vanilla ice cream, anyone?

Here's an Update on my vanilla extract, at about 2 months out.


Melanie said...

i'm intrigued to hear more about this - i always buy my vanilla from penzey's. although pricey, it's always great quality. would love to make my own!

Carrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Any idea how long the completed vanilla extract will last?

Carrie said...

I am expecting my .750 liters to last me about 4 years. I go through a couple 4 ounces bottles of vanilla in a year, and this makes about 25 ounces. I've notices an increase in the number of ounces I use since having kids - My daughter is fond of homemade vanilla yogurt, so we use several teaspoons of vanilla each week. It adds up pretty fast!

Debs said...

Would you be able yo add some progress pics to this post to show us how your vanilla is going?
Thanks :)

bipolarised said...

I'm delighted to hear about your Vanilla I'm addicted to Vanilla I'm a Southern Girl and use ALOT of it when you said you used a couple of 4 oz bottles a year I balked I use a 4 oz bottle in 2 months (I cook husband loves cookies and cakes) and everything is scratch. I smell like vanilla. I was looking up Vanilla beans and came across your husbands blog in the Christian Science Monitor found a good source for Vanilla Beans (as I've been spending a fortune at Williams and Sonoma and the orananic markets) then started reading your blog and loved it. So Thanks...It looks beautiful and was wondering how it tastes now (they're all alcoholly out of the bottle how does it smell when it dries down on your hands and does it stay you know like perfume) My grandmother used it for burns isn't that funny...well anyway I was just wondering I've always wanted to make my own but wanted to ask a "real" person and questioned using vodka vs rum or bourbon hmmm I don't drink either but I make alot of bread puddings and rum desserts I guess I could make all of the above...just a thought...Thanks for your blog

Unknown said...

Purchased vanilla extract from Penzeys is about 38% vodka. That's enuf alcohol to last a long time. Been doin' this for years. Now you have to move on to Almond and Lemon extract

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