After the Ina In A Year project, I declared that Homemade Vanilla was not worth the trouble to make from scratch. At the time, I really did not think it was necessary, and to be fair, I still would not call Homemade Vanilla necessary. But lately I have begun making my own vanilla extract, and I have never been more happy to eat more words.
I think some of my past hesitations regarding the value of making Homemade Vanilla were directly connected to my lack of margin at the time I made my bold claim. In busy seasons of life, the last thing we need to worry about is making vanilla extract from scratch. That’s what grocery stores are for.
But today I find myself in a season of life that allows me a bit of margin, and I do unexpected things with that margin. Namely, I now regularly make Homemade Vanilla.
If you are in a season of life without margin, please know that nothing in me would ever try to convince you to put Homemade Vanilla at the top of your crowded to-do list. Understanding our own limits is key to a hospitality practice.
I would also want you to know that as far as project cooking goes, Homemade Vanilla is perhaps one of the lowest labor projects you can imagine.
Vanilla extract is made by soaking whole vanilla beans in vodka (any brand of vodka will work!). The alcohol extracts the vanilla flavor from the beans into the alcohol, resulting in the dark black liquid that we use to flavor cakes and cookies.
Once you have the jar, the beans, and the vodka, time does all the work. It take a minimum of thirty days for the vanilla to fully steep. I keep a jar steeping on my counter, and it is rewarding to see it slowly turn a deeper and deeper shade of toasty brown.
Once the vanilla has fully steeped, I use a tiny funnel and transfer some of the extract into a smaller jar that is more well-suited to pouring into measuring spoons when I bake. I store the remaining extract and the beans in a larger jar for storage. Whenever a recipe calls for scraping the seeds from a vanilla pod, I have some waiting!
When I finish steeping one batch, I order more beans, pick up another jar of vodka, and start the whole thing over again (Links to all of my favorite products are below!). Without meaning to, I have become a vanilla maker, and you can join me! Bonus points if you choose to work ahead and steep a bunch of beans in anticipation of gift-giving.
My favorite place to use Homemade Vanilla? Ina’s Vanilla Cream Cheese Pound Cake. Making Homemade Vanilla is not necessary, but I enjoy the process, and that makes it worth it to me.
HOMEMADE VANILLA SUPPLIES
- 10-12 vanilla beans
- 1 750-ml bottle vodka
- Choose a jar large enough to hold all the vodka and tall enough to accommodate the vanilla beans. Put the beans in the jar, pour in the vodka, and seal the jar.
- Allow the mixture to steep for a minimum of thirty days. At this point you can use the vanilla extract in recipes or allow it to continue steeping. You can also use the beans in recipes that call for the seeds of a vanilla bean.