The difference between an ‘okay’ baked good and a spectacular one can be as simple as using a high-quality, concentrated vanilla extract. By making your own, you control these aspects instead of dealing with imitation or watered-down vanilla with synthetic ingredients. Give us the good stuff!
Being a ‘planner’ type, starting to create and buy holiday gifts in July is not unprecedented. This year, we were curious about making our own vanilla extract since we use it in coffee, our 5 Spice Hot Choffee, baking and pretty much everywhere. How hard could it be? Spoiler: it’s so easy and also rather fun. We decided to make 12 bottles and gift them to friends and family. You can do the same. While this recipe doubles as a gift idea, it triples as a way of making the most divine vanilla bean sugar (more on that later).
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Makes 12 bottles
Ingredients & Items needed
2 packs vanilla bean pods (the 2 packs will yield 40 pods and this ensures at least 3 pods per bottle)
10 liters of 80-proof vodka (we bought the 1.75 liter gluten-free, non-GMO Blue Ice Potato Vodka brand and took home 6 of these puppies)
12 swing-top bottles (33oz size)
Funnels, if you don’t have them already
Use clean or sterilized bottles (because there are plastic pieces attached, we skipped that step and did a normal cleaning of the bottles and waited for them to dry). Slice vanilla bean pods lengthwise (to expose more of the bean to the alcohol) and put 3-4 in each bottle. Then, using your funnel, carefully pour the vodka into each bottle, dividing evenly between the 12.
If all of this feels too much, here’s the store-bought organic vanilla extract we’ve historically used that sparked the idea for this recipe.
Let’s talk numbers and value.
The vodka, depending on brand quality, varies in price. Our total ran about $180 for the 6 bottles, $40 for the organic vanilla beans, $30 for the swing-top bottles and about $7 for the funnels. That’s about $21.42 per bottle and you’re getting about 29oz ounces in each bottle, more than 3x the amount of the 8oz versions in the store that go for almost $40. In fact, let’s get granular: the store-bought version linked above is $4.65 per fluid ounce whereas ours is $0.74. The value of each bottle, considering the more concentrated and higher-quality ingredients used – in addition to the labor of love involved, is well over $135. That’s vanilla gold right there.
Make the recipe suit you! Smaller bottles (8.5oz vs. 33oz) would drastically bring down the amount, and cost, of alcohol and vanilla bean pods needed.
Tips & best practices: each bottle should have about 3-4 pods for maximum flavor. Start early for next year – similar to wine, vanilla extract tastes better as it ages. Give the vanilla beans as little as 8 weeks to infuse or wait 6-12 months for the richer flavor to emerge. Keep in a cool, dark place and shake bottles once a week.
We love doing calligraphy, but there are plenty of ways to create your own custom stickers for your gift bottles. Enjoy!