HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

Homemade Vanilla Extract

A couple of years ago I started making my own vanilla extract at home, and wow, what a flavor difference!

It was so frustrating buying those tiny bottles of extract at the grocery store, spending good money, and then running out so fast. The thing that really sent me over the edge and into making my own was after purchasing a couple of bottles of vanilla extract from Trader Joe's that were just worthless. I love generally love that store, but not that product.

Anybody else making extracts at home?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I make my own vanilla. Just a couple of split beans in a small jar and dark rum. I top it off as needed. Now that I'm baking more, I have a second bottle brewing.

    I haven't make other extracts. Any suggestions?

    2 Replies
    1. re: tcamp

      Lemon extract, and almond too! Very easy to make, and a real money saver. Same basic method as vanilla.

      1. re: tcamp

        ALSO: Myer's Extra Dark Rum (Jamaican) is very good for this purpose.

      2. Sure do! I go through a decent amount of extract, paste, sugars and syrups all infused with vanilla beans. I've used vodka, dark rum and hazelnut liquor to make extract. Lots of threads on CH about different ways to go about it. My favorite way is to cut both ends off the vanilla bean and then place them standing up straight inside a jar with the liquid. The bean reacts like a straw and the liquor gets inside the pod. You wind up with a richly flavored extract and the vanilla bean paste you can literally squeeze out of the pod. Works really well. My jars sit for at least six months. The longer the better.

        8 Replies
        1. re: HillJ

          I started making it last year but used very good Kentucky bourbon. Gee I think I will try one of vodka and one with rum. Any brand?

          1. re: katz66

            I use what I enjoy drinking :) I know recommendations to buy "whatever' are common but you don't need a lot to get started, so I buy those mini bar bottles they sell behind the register.

            1. re: HillJ

              Oh that is interesting. Never thought about buying the little bottles behind the counter. Good idea and then if you don't like it you haven't wasted much money.
              Thanks

              1. re: katz66

                Bingo! It's all about experimenting! I've had a few duds but I wasted very little product to find out what I did and didn't like.

                Stocking stuffer idea. Buy a few mini bottles. Slit and fold a bean inside the bottle and tie a ribbon around the neck of the bottle.

            2. re: katz66

              If you have the time and interest, it might be fun to compare cheap and pricey booze. I did that with rum when I first started, since I had so many beans. If I sipped the vanilla, maybe I could tell the difference but used in bake goods, both the same. So I buy large bottles of fairly cheap rum. Your palate may differ, though.

              1. re: katz66

                I like Mount Gay rum. It's from Barbados, and I've been to the distillery. They do it the old fashioned way, each step by hand, and they even make their own barrels there! They have a couple of good varieties there, but I'd get the 86 proof, and it's a really great rum. Mixes well, but it's best as a "sipping whiskey" type drink. So using it for vanilla extract will surely give a REAL PUNCH to whatever you're cooking!

            3. I started making my own vanilla ext months ago and love it! BUT I made it w a good Vodka..not rum. Whats the difference??

              1 Reply
              1. re: itallgrowsback

                Just the flavor profile. You'll wind up with extract either way. Rum is richer, darker but either works well.

              2. Twice a year, I buy pods from this CA seller.
                http://www.theposter.com/vanilla2.html
                Best prices I have found for freshness, flavor profile and price.

                When my sis returned from a trip to Tahiti with prized v. pods $35.00 (for 10 pods) we did a side by side test making extract and vanilla bean shortbread cookies and guess who won?! My pod guy.

                18 Replies
                1. re: HillJ

                  Thanks for posting this! Trader Joe's has a really good deal on vanilla beans right now too: a two pack for $3.99 each.

                  1. re: FoodWacky

                    The CA pod guy sells 1/2 lb, 80 vanilla beans in each bag for $25.00 chef grade. I'm no longer using vanilla sparingly.

                    1. re: HillJ

                      How long can you store vanilla beans before they start to lose flavor?

                      1. re: firecooked

                        I haven't hit that time period YET! I do not keep the pods out of some form of liquid though. When I use to keep them bagged dry, I'd keep them in the freezer and use them as needed. Now I keep them jarred in liquids and snip, squeeze and use whole as needed. I also use the pods ground with my coffee beans once the pod is empty of seeds.

                        1. re: firecooked

                          I know you posted this a while ago, but I just want to note that I also buy from the same seller as HillJ (I like the Tahitian beans), and buy them a pound at a time. These last me about a year.

                          Upon receipt I split them into one ounce portions and vacuum seal each portion individually. I notice no degradation over time when I open the smaller packs, and every time I open one of them I try to use the beans fairly quickly, storing the extras in sugar as recommended on the bags.

                          Four ounces of beans, split and scraped, put into a quart ball jar, topped up with Lemon Hart 151 rum, and left for several months, makes an excellent and very flavorful extract.

                          1. re: davis_sq_pro

                            Thanks for posting. It's always nice to read a fellow CH's success and usage.

                    2. re: HillJ

                      I have to second this recommendation. HillJ, you are responsible for introducing me to this seller and I thank you.

                      I've got plain vanilla (w/vodka), vanilla-brandy, and vanilla-pear a-brewin'.

                      1. re: nofunlatte

                        My pleasure, nofunl! Vanilla brandy is awesome for desserts and you've got something special there with vanilla-pear!! I've gotta give that a go.

                        1. re: HillJ

                          I'm using Williams-Birne (a German pear brandy).

                          1. re: nofunlatte

                            That was my next question, thanks!

                        2. re: HillJ

                          I LOVE that seller and am very faithful to him. He's got some outrageous flavor extracts that can't be found anywhere else and for those not wanting to do homemade, his Mexican vanilla extract is in a class of its own. He uses a sugar cane alcohol (not quite rum) and smooths out the flavor with just a touch of piloncillo. He's very proud of it, as well he should be--I don't think there's another Mexican vanilla extract like it. They throw in some beans with pretty much every order and they really are gorgeous. And for the record, he's got great prices on excellent saffron.

                          1. re: MacGuffin

                            Right there will you MacG. I'm equally loyal. At this point I have tried nearly every product they sell. Very smart operation.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              Extremely smart, very hands-on (I like to do my ordering over the phone--they work for a cheaper shipping option that way), and great prices. Have you tried the mushrooms and corn smut?

                              1. re: MacGuffin

                                I've tried a number of the dried mushrooms, happy with all. Didn't know about the corn smut :) Have you?

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  None of the above. . . yet. I imagine the morels are out of this world. And I have to admit that the smut has always intrigued me. I'd never heard of it until I saw it on the site, after which I did some research. :O

                                  1. re: MacGuffin

                                    How would you use corn smut in a sentence...lol, just kidding :)
                                    The morels and porcini are both terrific. I often pulverize the procini into powder first and use in pasta dishes. Bringing them back to life in water, broth is super easy.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      Oh, my. I have a special fondness for porcini and have never had morels. Good to know that the quality is on par with their other products. :))

                        3. I don't want rum, vodka or bourbon flavor in my vanilla so I make mine with grain alcohol.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            I've never tried using grain alcohol...will try that next!

                            1. re: C. Hamster

                              After a few months of soaking I can't tell my rum infused from the bourbon infused extract. They both just taste like vanilla