How to Make Vanilla Extract

homemade vanilla extract

I originally planned to post here once per week, but I am so excited, I am going to ignore that plan and post anyway. There are two reasons why. No. 1: Anna from the blog Teigliebe (in German) asked today which was our favorite spice for baking. Which made me think. The answer is really simple: I have come to realize that vanilla extract does give a recipe a very nice flavor. I have often been forced to leave out vanilla extract because it is soooo hard to come by in Germany. But the baked goods taste so much better if you add it. And no. 2 is because, you know, I finally found out how to make my own vanilla extract. It is so simple and easy, I am a bit angry I didn’t know beforehand.

vanilla extract

I stumbled across the idea on the blog Handle the heat. If you want to understand the science behind food and how certain ingredients have an impact on the final result, this is your blog to go to. Tessa from Handle the heat likes to invite guests for guest posts. And the one that got my attention was on how to make your own vanilla extract by Kristin from Bake like a champ.

homemade vanilla extractIf you have ever tried to make an American recipe calling for vanilla extract in Germany, you know why I got so excited. Vanilla extract is unheard of in Germany. We do produce vanilla sugar, which means that vanilla beans are put into sugar and then sold (that’s how I make my own vanilla sugar by the way, just place a few vanilla beans in some sugar), but the extract, forget it. Really hard to get, I have looked, believe me. Vanilla sugar is a joke in my opinion. Try a little bit and tell me if you taste any vanilla. I feel vanilla extract is much better if you are looking for real vanilla flavor. I either had people get me vanilla extract from other European countries (as far as I can tell Germany is almost the only one not selling it in Europe) or asked people visiting from North America to get me some. But that most certainly is over now.

Because, finally, after years and years of baking in Germany and pulling my hair when yet again an American recipe called for vanilla extract (I would usually take vanilla sugar), I finally know how to make vanilla extract. You need two things: alcohol and vanilla beans. That’s it. Really, it is that simple. And yes, check your bought vanilla extract, you will be surprised to see that it has 35% of alcohol. Mine did. I had some French and some bought for a lot of money on German Amazon. All had 35% alcohol. You will also be shocked to see how much artifical aroma, sugar and other things are added. I didn’t like that at all. Homemade is much better and so simple, it really is annoying. Oh, and by the way, obviously using a vanilla bean is probably even better. But do you know anything about vanilla beans? Have you seen the prices? That’s why I prefer extract instead. But if I do, it will be homemade from now on.

This is how it works:

Credit: Handle the heat

How to make vanilla extract

Print Recipe
Serves: 1 bottle of 500 ml Cooking Time: 5 min

Ingredients

  • 500 ml of rum or of vodka without flavor (such as Absolut, Smirnoff, etc.)
  • 8 whole vanilla beans

Instructions

1

Cut each vanilla bean lengthwise and place in an empty and washed bottle, which has a lid.

2

Pour rum or vodka carefully into the bottle with the vanilla beans and close.

3

Shake and let sit for at least two weeks until bottle starts to have a very strong amber color (see pictures). No need to put in the fridge, storing in cupboard is fine. The best flavor is reached after about 6 weeks or longer. It's now ready for use!

Notes

You simply use your bottle each time you need vanilla extract. It does not go bad or anything, you can use it for years. If you run low, you can add fresh alcohol. Every time you add alcohol, add a vanilla bean. The ratio is more or less one vanilla bean per 100 milliliters. No need to take out the vanilla beans, just keep the old ones inside. I like rum better than vodka, the flavor is sweeter.

homemade vanilla extractGreetings from rainy Hamburg,

Jenny

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