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Can’t you just smell it? The info below on making your own vanilla extract comes to us from HOMEGROWN member Black Cat Cottage. Thanks, BCC! Our noses are tingling already!


Pure extracts pack the perfect punch in homemade goodies from cookies to cakes, but they can also pack a punch to your wallet. So why not make your own? It’s easy, and the supply list is fairly short. All you need is vodka, a key ingredient (vanilla beans, peppermint leaves, almonds), a knife, and, if you don’t plan on using the vodka bottle as your container, some glass jars.

My husband and I made a batch of vanilla extract this past Saturday, and it took less than five minutes—though you will need to let the solution sit for a while. The process doesn’t change much, no matter what raw material you use. You’ll steep your flavormaker in vodka, tweaking the soak time and the ratio of booze used. First up is vanilla extract, with notes on peppermint and almond varieties following.


Step one is figuring out the amount of vodka and vanilla beans you need; we like three beans for every cup of vodka. Once you've figured how much extract you’d like to make, slice each bean down the middle, splitting it open to expose the seeds. Then place the beans back into the vodka bottle or into a smaller glass bottle with the vodka. Seal.

Here comes the hard part: It takes months for the vanilla to steep. They say at least three months, although six months is best. So, screw up your will power, place your bottle in a dark cupboard, remember to give it a good shake every week or so, and wait. In six months, you’ll have the most amazing vanilla extract—and plenty of it.

Once your solution has finished steeping, pour the extract through a coffee filter and funnel it into a smaller bottle or multiple bottles; we recommend dark glass jars. You can use the finished product in cakes, homemade ice cream, cookies, et cetera. Homemade extract also makes a great gift; you might want to decorate a few bottles and give them away over the holidays. Or keep it all for yourself. We won’t judge.

But don’t throw away those beans just yet! You can add more vodka and start the process all over again, since most beans can be used twice. Nice, huh? If you plan on making a lot of extract, do yourself and your wallet a favor and buy the vanilla beans in bulk. We bought bourbon Madagascar beans from a spice seller on Amazon for about $11 with free shipping, and my husband picked up the vodka on clearance for $5. So we made six cups of vanilla extract for $16. Compare that to prices in the grocery store, where you’ll pay at least $10 for a few ounces of extract, and you'll see how much the savings really add up.


The process here is nearly identical, with the main difference being the ratio of peppermint to vodka; ideal is about 1 part peppermint to 2 parts vodka. So, for a yield of half a cup of peppermint extract, you’ll need half a cup of vodka and a quarter-cup of fresh peppermint leaves. Rinse the leaves and bruise them a bit with your hands. Put the peppermint in a jar, filling until the vodka covers the leaves completely. As with the vanilla, give the jar a shake every few days; unlike the vanilla, you won’t need to wait quite so long for the leaves to steep. After a month or so, strain the leaves, pour the resulting extract into an air-tight container, and store in a cool, dark place. Your extract should stay good for about a year.


You know the drill. Here, the ratio is about 12 raw whole almonds to 16 oz vodka. Place the almonds in a jar, fill with vodka, and close the lid. Store in a cool, dark place for about two months, shaking every few days. Strain the finished extract into a jar and store in the pantry for about a year.


You can also use vanilla beans and other natural flavors to give extra oomph to granulated sugar. One vanilla bean should do the trick for 2 cups of sugar. As with the extract, you’ll want to slice the bean lengthwise to expose the seeds. Bury the bean in the sugar and seal tightly, letting sit for one to two weeks. Use the resulting sugar in baking, coffee, et cetera. Sweet!


Visit Black Cat Cottage for more on baking, gardening, and homesteading. Got a comment? Another extract recipe? Post it below and keep the conversation rolling. You might also check out the Homemade Tinctures 101 and the Freezing, Drying, and Storing Herbs 101. You can always find more things to cook, preserve, plant, grow, make, craft, and steep in the HOMEGROWN 101 library.





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Shellie: Thanks so much for sharing this—and I love that you used the rest of the lemon for iced tea. Whole-hog lemon use, so to speak!

Waste not want not! :)

Jennifer said:

Shellie: Thanks so much for sharing this—and I love that you used the rest of the lemon for iced tea. Whole-hog lemon use, so to speak!

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