vanilla extract

If you had the choice to pay $103.12 or $11.99 for something, which would you pick?

A 20 mL bottle of vanilla extract costs EUR 2.75 at the supermarket.
A 750 mL bottle of vodka costs EUR 9.99.  Three vanilla beans cost EUR 2.00.
750 / 20 = 37.5
I can get 37.5 times as much out of the vodka as I can out of the vanilla extract bottle.
2.75 * 37.5 = 103.125

So really, this is kind of an easy choice.

After seeing this idea on several blogs, like here on Suburbhomestead, I realized that I was throwing a lot of money away on vanilla extract.  It might sound silly, but when some of my recipes call for a whole tablespoon of the stuff – or at least a teaspoon – that means that one of those little bottles is only enough for four or five recipes.  After a little reassurance, I decided I had nothing to lose and a lot of money to save!

All you need is vodka and vanilla beans.  I am using a nicer glass bottle, but only because I have one on hand.  You can just put the vanilla beans directly into the vodka bottle.

The great thing about vanilla beans is that last a really, really long time.  When I get through this entire 750 mL of vodka, I can get another bottle of vodka and just add it.  The beans will continue to work, potentially for years.

I used a razor blade to slice a slit from one end to the other of each bean, to help get the vanilla flavor into the vodka.  The pictures don’t show it, but vanilla beans are soft and have an almost gel-like consistency, kind of like a dried apricot.  A razor blade is a good way to cut into them without mushing them up.

Put the vanilla beans into the bottle…

Fill the bottle with vodka.  It really doesn’t get any easier than this.

The bottle on the left used less than half of the vodka I got for 9.99.  The bottle on the right cost 2.75.  It just makes me laugh.  I feel like such an idiot that I didn’t do this before!

I put mine in my bean pantry.  It should stay in a dark place.  Every day, I’ll take it out and shake it gently.  After about a month, it should be ready to use.

This is what it looks like after about two weeks; it still has another two weeks to go, but it smells absolutely divine!

And it has a lovely amber color too, making it practically decorative!  However, it really is best to keep it in the cupboard.

A teaspoon of vanilla extract in a recipe = a teaspoon of this stuff.  It’s the same damn thing.  Isn’t that awesome?

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18 thoughts on “vanilla extract

  1. Heidi, what do you use the vanilla extract for? If it’s for cake making and puddings make vanilla sugar instead and drink the vodka with some fruit juice – or get some ouzo probably cheaper!
    My mum found some vanilla pods in England in what we used to call ‘the continental shop’ so we always had a jar full ordinary sugar with the pods slit and mixed in. Once in a while (maybe every few months?) we removed the pods and started again with fresh sugar. Just use the sugar in any cake recipe or make a syrup – it’s really vanillery.
    PS. Another jar often in my cupboard has cheap brandy 1 part to 2 with orange/ mixed fruit juice poured over to cover dried apricots. Leave ideally at least a week before serving with Greek yogourt or ice cream. (It will keep for months if you can resist!)

    • Hi Sylvia, I use vanilla extract in a lot of things, mostly baking but also to flavor yogurt, coffee drinks, icings, even in non-cooking applications! I bet the vanilla sugar would work for many things if I could get the amounts right, but I wouldn’t want to put it in the yogurt/coffee kind of thing, or in icings/glazes where everything has to be very smooth (you use granulated, right?). Most of my recipes and cookbooks are American, where they only ever used liquid vanilla extract too. That said, vanilla sugar sounds like a good thing to have around too!

  2. Love this stuff! I started a couple of bottles of it last spring and gave smaller bottles of it for Christmas gifts. The bottles were well received and I certainly won’t go back to store bought again.

  3. We do this too. Once the vanilla beans have been reused a couple of times (we keep adding more vodka), you can dry them off and put them in with sugar for vanilla flavoured sugar. Works great.

  4. Brilliant! I’ve got crap loads of vodka sitting around (from our wedding almost four years ago, how tragic is that? Or maybe it’s a good thing because it shows that we aren’t big drinkers… of vodka. Let’s not talk about the magic whisky fairy that keeps drinking the whisky or the rum troll. Damn rum troll.).

    I had to LOL at the picture of the vanilla beans and the razor blade because my mind did a little “yeah, vanilla is a bit like crack, isn’t it” free-association. I go through gobs of the stuff (vanilla extract, NOT crack, jesus people – crack is only for guests*) and those little bitty bottles they sell here just do not cut it. I miss my huge jugs of mexican vanilla, btw. I’ve tried vanilla sugar and it’s just not the same (in my mind – which as we’ve established, is it’s own person**).

    I think I know what everyone is getting for Christmas next year. It’s kind of a shame I have to wait another 9 months.

    * I’m totally kidding about the crack. Crack is whack. (Thanks Ms. Houston, rest her soul.)
    ** I’m totally not kidding about this one. But I am slightly feverish, if that helps.

    • I think it’s a fantastic idea for Christmas gifts – just make sure they understand it’s meant to go in recipes, not to drunk straight out of the bottle hahaha!! In a pretty bottle with a bit of ribbon, these would make a lot of people happy. So you have nine months to keep an eye open for pretty bottles 🙂 (We’ve been feverish on and off for a month… I hope you’re able to evade sickies!)

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