Homemade Madagascar Vanilla Extract {using Vodka}

Homemade Madagascar Vanilla Extract….using Vodka?  Did I just say I used alcohol to make my very own vanilla?  I am still shaking my head thinking about it.  Why didn’t I think about this before?    After going thru many….many bottles of vanilla, some upwards of $20 for a teeny tiny bottle, I decided to give it a whirl.  I had nothing to lose!  Have you ever looked at the ingredient list of vanilla?  Go ahead, I will wait for you……. still waiting….. “We all live in a yellow submarine”…I can go on and on and NO ONE likes to hear me sing…..

That’s right, the first ingredient is ALCOHOL!  May 12, my dear Dad’s birthday, I went out and bought a bottle of vodka.  I didn’t want to get a really expensive brand, just in case it truly turned out awful.  This bottle of Svedka was about $18 for 34 oz.   I also found the cutest little glass bottles at my favorite discount store…Hobby Lobby.  If you wait for them to be on sale, 50% off, you will only pay $1.50 per bottle.  Aren’t they adorable?  Wouldn’t they make great Christmas or Housewarming gifts?  Wash the bottles in hot soapy water and then let them sit in a pan of hot water for 5 minutes to sterilize the bottles.  Let air dry upside down.

Now all I needed to buy was vanilla beans.  Oh my gosh….I never knew vanilla beans could be sooooooo expensive!  I finally understand why I paid so much from the King Arthur Flour catalog. I bought mine from Kroger’s, and in that small container for $10, I received 2 vanilla beans.  Geez!   I cut the beans in half, and then split the bean lengthwise.   Since I didn’t know what I was doing,  I didn’t scrape the vanilla bean, just hoped that the slit down the length of it would be enough to allow the ‘bean’ to fuse/ferment with the vodka.Here is a picture of the vanilla bean before cutting it in half and then lengthwise.  As I had 4 bottles, I put one bean in each…..love this shot of them lined up!!  Still can’t believe I was patient!
Here they are at day 1.  I spoke with the manager at the local ‘spirits’ store, and he said that the companies that are infusing ingredients into vodka are doing it for 10 days.  Well, we don’t want a little flavor.  We want the flavor to knock our socks off, right?  My goal was to check it out after 2 months.  I stored these little bottles in a dark chest, pulling them out every few days to give them a good shake.
Look at these beauties!  This is a shot at 2 months.  Did I give it a test run?  Nope, I opened one up to smell and my gutt said they weren’t ready.  The vodka smell was still distinct.  I also added in another half of a vanilla bean, split and scraped the seeds into the bottle before putting the vanilla bean inside.  I didn’t buy this last batch at Kroger’s though.  This time I bought 1/2 pound of Madagascar vanilla beans from Amazon.  How much did the 8 oz cost?  $25 and I received free shipping!
There are many brands out there, I literally chose one for the Madagascar labeling and I loved the price.  Time will tell, and maybe next time I will go with a different brand.  Next time, you say….absolutely!  I don’t think I will ever buy another bottle of vanilla!  Need proof of how serious I am…..……look at this bad boy!  34 oz of vodka, 10 vanilla beans split and scraped, storing it on its side in the dark, shaking it every few days and it is already a deep amber color…..after only 2 weeks!  I was serious about Christmas gifts, 5 1/2 months of fermenting and you all will be in heaven adding this to your baked goods.

Now the big question is….will it be worth the wait?  Will it act like the vanilla extract you buy in the store?  Will it be better?  I have been waiting patiently for 2 1/2 months and the wait is finally over.  The smell and pinky taste test says it ready.  It is making its way to the starting block….I have my butter coming to room temperature, will be pulling out the flour, eggs, sugar, chocolate chips in a short while.  It is finally time to make chocolate chip cookies with my homemade vanilla extract!  Even though I know I will be sneaking some raw, these cookies will be turned into something we all need on hot summer days….ICE CREAM SANDWICHES!

I cannot wait to tell you how they turned out (this coming from the person who uses Whiskey frequently in her baked goods.  Don’t believe me, go here and here for proof).  The aroma is so rich, and full of body.  I wish I could wave my hand over the top and send it to all of you over the internet.  Now that would be something, wouldn’t it?

P.S–I am already plotting out the bourbon and rum vanilla extract that will be started soon.  Might have to play around with a simple syrup to add to the alcohol and vanilla beans.  It is one of the main reasons I started out with a vodka base, as it will not compete with the vanilla flavors.  Stay tuned!!!

Homemade Madagascar Vanilla

34 oz vodka (make sure it is at least 40% or 80 proof)
9-10 madagascar vanilla beans

1. Drink, or remove, one shot of vodka.  You need to leave a little room (head) at the top of the bottle, so that it doesn’t overflow when adding the ingredients and allows movement when you shake it.
2. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise.  With tip of knife, scrape out the pulp and put in the vodka bottle.  Drop the split vanilla bean pods into the bottle.  Make sure the seal is tight!
3. Store the bottle on its side in a dark room or closet.  Take out every few days and give it a good shake.
4. Allow a minimum of 2 months to blend the flavors.  I honestly feel the longer the better and will let this big bottle rest and ferment for 5 months.
5. This vanilla extract can be used for any baked item or drink calling for vanilla.   Now if I use this for my buttercream frosting, I will strain the extract thru cheesecloth so there are not any “bits” of pulp or bean floating around in the frosting.
6. As long as you store this in a cabinet, not in direct light, tightly sealed it does not have an expiration date.



One Month Ago:      Crispy Baked French Fries
Two Months Ago:    Butterfinger Caramel Bites
Three Months Ago: Strawberry Mango Salad 
Four Months Ago:   Peanut Butter Cups

10 thoughts on “Homemade Madagascar Vanilla Extract {using Vodka}

  1. I made this about a year ago and never used it. I can see it has real potential, but it never REALLY tasted like a vanilla I’m used to (tasted just a little flowery), even after several months. I think your post here hit on MY mistake…I didn’t use the Madagascar vanilla beans, I just used regular vanilla beans. Also, the kind of vanilla I pay big bucks for says bourbon….Hmmmmmmm…I wonder if that makes a difference. I really enjoyed your post.
    Coleen recently posted…POTLUCK PEANUT BUTTER PIEMy Profile

    • Thanks Coleen! I have been using nothing but homemade vanilla extract since this post went live. I have different versions going, with vodka being the quickest turnaround, whiskey next, bourbon and rum seems to take the longest. I have tried a couple other vanilla beans (and even mixed a few), but the Madagascar is still my favorite. When you are getting the alcohol, just make sure that you use minimum 40% alcohol!

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  5. Oh I am so glad I clicked on this! I am going to try it. I agree that Amazon is the way to go to order your vanilla beans though. Thanks so much for trying this and posting!

    • Thanks! I have just spent some time googling extracts, and you are right….there are alot of them out there….each slightly different, but with the same concept.

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