Making your own flavored baking extracts is so easy that anyone with a paring knife can do it. Our recipe for DIY vanilla extract outlines the process in a few straightforward steps that will take you just a few minutes. The hard part is waiting a month or so for the extract to steep.
To make DIY vanilla extract, begin by finding the freshest whole beans available. Most vanilla beans sold in grocery stores are expensive, dry and brittle. I like to order mine in bulk vacuum packs from online vendors such as Top Vanilla. Vacuum-packed vanilla beans are cheaper and usually much more pliable than those available in the store. Because pods dry out quickly after the pack's seal is broken, plan ahead and order them when you'll be making vanilla sugar and other recipes requiring fresh beans for natural flavoring.
Most DIY vanilla extract recipes recommend a ratio of 5 beans per 8 ounces of vodka, but you can experiment with the proportions and also substitute other kinds of drinking alcohol, such as rum and bourbon, to create a concoction unique to your kitchen.
5 whole vanilla beans
8 oz. vodka
1. Sterilize a lidded glass jar with boiling water or by cycling it through your dishwasher. Drain the jar and let it it stand until it comes to room temperature.
2. Using a paring knife, cut a lengthwise slit along the edge of a vanilla bean. Pull open the bean and scrape most of the seeds into the jar using the edge of the knife. Drop the split bean into the jar with the seeds. Repeat this process for all of the vanilla beans.
3. Pour the vodka over the pods and seeds inside the jar. Place the lid on the jar and shake the jar gently to dislodge more seeds from the pods.
4. Store the jar in a dark location without temperature extremes. About once a week, shake the jar gently to mix the ingredients. Wait at least one month before using. The longer you wait, the more intense the flavor of your DIY vanilla extract!
As you use up the extract, you can pour more vodka into the jar and replenish the spent beans with freshly split pods.