Have You Ever Wandered . . .
Into a liquor store with a toddler in tow at eleven in the morning, plopped down half a gallon of vodka on the counter and smiled? It yields quite an interesting response, I assure you.
Of course, I had **slightly** different plans than the cashier guessed – homemade vanilla extract! Not only is it more delicious than store-bought, it’s far more affordable. I’m planning to give some away for the holiday’s this year along with coconut vanilla sugar and a few other goodies I’ll be sharing with you.
If you love the idea of a handmade holiday season but dread the thought of a bunch of unfinished projects, this is the tutorial for you! Just a few minutes of your time now + at least six weeks for the extract to ripen = amazing homemade gifts that will bring warmth and joy to your holiday events. All for a fraction of the cost of other goodies, of course!
Store-bought vanilla extract costs an average of $2.75 per ounce. Here’s the breakdown for this recipe:
- Spirits – I used vodka for this batch. My cost was $0.49/ounce
- Vanilla Beans – I found this variety set of 40 vanilla beans for $19.99. That’s $0.50 each.
Total store bought cost – About $11 for 4 ounces
Total homemade cost – About $2.46 for 4 ounces
A Note On Ingredients
The main spirits used to make vanilla extract – vodka and bourbon – are now often made from GMO-plants and/or enzymes derived from genetically modified organisms. (source) Rum is sometimes used as well, though I was unable to find a definitive answer on whether it is likely to have GMO origins. Manufacturers claim that “none of the genetic material makes it through the distilling process to the final product,” but to my knowledge that has not been independently verified. (source)
In a report on Kentucky bourbon and GMO’s, Grist.com author Twilight Greenaway writes:
“This question of the genetic material passing through the distillation process came up repeatedly while I was researching the issue, and while it’s an important one, the fact is that neither Brown-Forman, nor the Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA), nor The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) have made any scientific research public that proves their point. The KDA did not respond to my inquiries either.)” (source)
Organic options are hard to find, but there are certain sources that are still likely to be GMO-free. If you’re looking for vodka, here’s one option. This one looks good, too. Bourbon is a little more tricky. There are brands that still strive to be GMO-free, but due to the fact that the corn used is grown in the United States cross-contamination may be an issue.
Rum, which is derived from sugarcane, would not contain GMO’s unless they come from enzymes used in the fermentation process. I was not able to find any data on manufacturing processes either way, but fortunately there are a few organic options if you’d like to go this route.
Should I Split The Vanilla Beans?
A lot of tutorials call for splitting the vanilla bean to accelerate the infusion process. Personally, I have found that split/unsplit vanilla beans yield the same results in the same amount of time. The difference, in experience, is that the extract made with split vanilla beans tends to be a little more cloudy, whereas the unsplit is clear.
My advice? Skip this step and then, if you’d like, remove the whole bean after the infusion process is complete. Cut the end off, squeeze it like a toothpaste tube to remove the pods, and then use them to make vanilla bean coconut macaroons or some other delicious treat. Of course, if you buy the vanilla bean set I mentioned earlier you will have some split pods to use as well. By all means use them to make extract or vanilla sugar.
How To Make Vanilla Extract
- 4 whole vanilla beans
- 2 cups vodka, rum, or bourbon
- Place vanilla beans and liquor in a container, seal tightly and give it a good shake.
- Store in a dark cabinet for at least 6 weeks, shaking occasionally.
- When the extract has reached the depth of flavor that you prefer you can remove the vanilla beans to be used in a recipe. However, it is also fine to simply leave them in.
- Store in either a dark container or in a dark cabinet.