12 Days of Healthy Holiday Gifts: Homemade Vanilla Extract

by in 12 Days of Holiday Gifts, Healthy Holidays, December 1, 2010
Dana's Homemade Vanilla Extract

Starting today, we’re serving up a new healthy gift idea every day for 12 days!  First up: from-scratch vanilla extract your friends and family will love.

Using high-quality, pure vanilla extract can make all the difference in baked goods and whipped cream, but the good stuff can get pricey! You can make some that’s beyond better for a fraction of the cost.  This gourmet-caliber extract makes an ideal hostess gift or stocking stuffer for anyone who loves to cook.

Vanilla Extract
Some extracts only contain imitation vanilla flavoring – real vanilla beans are the only way to go. Splurge on the best beans you can find (they should cost around $2.00 to $3.00 each) and save on the vodka – buy what’s on sale and spend $20 or less for a liter.

What You’ll Need

1 liter vodka
4 vanilla beans
8 (4-fluid ounce) food-grade glass bottles with caps (available at craft stores or online)

Heat vodka in a medium saucepan until warm. Split and scrape out the seeds from vanilla beans and place it all (pods and seeds) in a large sealable glass jar or container. Pour in warm vodka, cover and shake to combine. Place in a cool, dry place to infuse for at least one week (two is even better). Strain and use a funnel to transfer to glass bottles. Cut each bean pod in half and place a piece in each bottle.

To give your vanilla a personal touch. Make simple labels on the computer, wrap in clear cellophane bags tied with a bow.

TELL US: What homemade gifts are you making this year?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (90)

  1. Toni H. says:

    I have a couple of questions…..

    This says to use a liter of vodka, yet tells you to put it in eight 4-ounce bottles for gifts? What to do with the remainder?

    Also, what is the shelf life of this?

    • danawhite says:

      Hi Toni H.
      You are correct — you will end up with some left over — I usually reserve that for myself! As for the shelf life – it will keep indefinitely. I recommend storing in a cool and dark place along with the rest of your spices and extracts. Thanks for your great questions.

  2. faith2action says:

    This is just Fantastic, to say the least! This is so useful for the holiday baking season, to use ourselves AND as a gift! Thanx for the blessing, I will definitely pass it on! Happy Holidays & God Bless! =0] p.s. for lemon or orange extract – how much peel or zest do you use? Thanx again!

  3. shea says:

    I luv this. I hate paying for those tiny bottles. I bake alot so any more recipes would be wonderful! Thanks!

  4. Kristen says:

    Where do you purchase the vanilla beans? I don't recall seeing them in my grocery store. I'm very excited to try this recipe!!!

    • Laura says:

      Kristen, The best place is to order online from Penzey's, the prices are good and the quality is excellent.
      I usually order the Madagascar ones.

  5. Erika says:

    I would love an Almond Extract recipe, but am very excited about trying this one!!

  6. Jeri Lynn says:

    Will the strength of the extract increase the longer the split bean is left in? Should the bean be removed after a certain time period?


  7. Laura says:

    I have been making my own vanilla for years now. I have a cookbook called "The Search for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" I purchased in the late 80's and it gave directions on making your own vanilla. I have been doing it ever since.
    But I do not heat the liquor and I use rum (use as cheap a brand as you can find). I just slit the vanilla beans and put them in the bottle of rum and leave it sit for as long as I can – it will start turning brown and smelling like vanilla. I guess warming it would speed up the infusion process. And do not throw away the vanilla beans after – let them dry out and put in some granulated sugar to let in infuse the sugar.
    When my bottle starts getting about 1/2 to 3/4 gone I start a new one and stick it away to get yummy.

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