I have been making caramels like crazy here in preparation of heading out to the Farmer’s Market and once again I have run out of vanilla extract.  The local market here sells little dinky bottles of vanilla extract for nearly 8 bucks and I’d have to drive an hour to Costco to get a decent price and by then I’ve wasted all those savings on gas.

What a conundrum for a cheapskate like me!

At the same time, I pulled out an oldish bag of vanilla beans and was heart broken to see they’d gone stale.  I can’t cut those up for putting into caramel.  They were hard as a rock.

IMG_5459Fortunately the light bulb turned on and I realized I could probably use these old vanilla beans for vanilla extract.  A quick google search showed all you need is some type of alcohol and the beans and you’re good to go.

I had vodka on hand (I use it as an alcohol spray for soap making ok?!) so I chose to use that.  Plus vodka is a very neutral alcohol and you therefore get a very pure vanilla flavor.  You can also use bourbon and rum for interesting and delicious extra varieties.

For the beans, there’s all sorts of websites you can order them on.  I used the Arizona Vanilla Company www.arizonavanilla.com and found some decent prices.

There are many different varieties of vanilla beans:

  • Mexican
  • Madagascar
  • Ugandan
  • Tahitian
  • Papua New Guinea Tahitian
  • Hawaiian
  • Bourbon
  • Indian
  • Grades A/B

I chose Madagascar originally because it was the cheapest at the time.  Now I use Mexican because our Cajeta is a Mexican caramel.  Mexican is more spicy while Madagascar is more subtle.  I highly suggest trying all of them!

How to make the vanilla extract

Super easy.  Take the vanilla beans and slit them open lengthwise with a knife.  Watch those fingers!  Then put them in the bottle of your choice.  I just used an old wine bottle.  I also had to crush my vanilla beans because they were hard as a rock.  Strangely, the inside was still nice though.

Then all you do is pour the alcohol into it and cork up the bottle.  Wait a month and you have home-made vanilla extract!  So why are we purchasing this from the store?  A half pound of vanilla beans cost me $50 and this wine bottle full of extract used 4 vanilla beans and is probably $50 worth of extract alone.  Talk about a cost savings!

Vanilla Extract

Do you have a vanilla extract recipe or tip?