Recently, I decided to make homemade vanilla extract. Because I enjoy baking, I can easily go through about 5-7 bottles of vanilla extract a year. Each 2 ounce bottle costs about $3 in the grocery store. When you think about what you're buying and how easy it is to make, the cost of store-bought extract is actually pretty high. Also store-bought vanilla extract doesn't always provide as much flavor as I would like. Sometimes I increase the vanilla in my recipes because I just want a deeper flavor profile. If anything I just said rings true for you, homemade is the way to go.
So how do you go about making vanilla extract? The process is fairly simple. I should have done it a long time ago. All you need is some vanilla beans, a glass container, and some rum/vodka/bourbon.
I actually decided to make homemade vanilla extract because I found a very nicely priced vanilla bean supplier online who had good ratings. The company (who is not paying me for this and does not know I am writing this) is called Beanilla. The are predominantly a vanilla bean supplier, though they also sell other products. Currently, they are having a sale on Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans; you can buy a package of ten for $8.95, which, if you've ever looked at buying beans in stores or online you know is a great deal. They also have free shipping right now for vanilla beans and they have a coupon code SAVE10, which gives you 10% off your order. When I saw this, I had to order them.
I got my beans in the mail, vacuum packed, within a few days. And they even slipped me an extra bean (accidentally, I assume), so that I got 11 vanilla beans for $8.05! When I opened the package the beans were fragrant, moist, and very plump. They were the highest quality vanilla beans I'd worked with in a long time. The last time I bought vanilla beans at a grocery store in France, they were rather dried out when I worked with them.
The "recipe" for vanilla extract is very simple. You just need to take your beans and split them in half. Using a knife to scrape the seeds (actually called "caviar") from the pods and then add both vanilla seeds and the scraped out pods to a large glass container. I used a bottle that I bought from Ikea for $3.99 (I'm listing the price here because again, this is far cheaper than anything you can find online).
Now everyone has different ratios that they suggest. After much reading, I decided that I would use seven vanilla beans (one of which I scraped out the caviar from and used in a cherry compote), and about 4 cups of dark rum. Many people use a much higher vanilla bean to alcohol ratio, but they also expect their extract to be done in about 6 weeks. I am fine with letting my extract takes it time to reach maturity. Also, vanilla beans continue add flavor as long as they are submerged in alcohol, so many people re-use their beans to continue making extract. I simply started with a more dilute mixture and will wait longer, probably 9 weeks, before testing my solution. This is what it looks like for now.
One handle of Bicardi Dark Rum (1.75L) cost me $21.39. I used about half of this, so let's say that was $11. The 11 pack of vanilla beans cost me $8.05. I used 7 of them, so that comes to about $5. The bottle that I bought was $4. The total cost of making this thus is roughly $20.
That may seem a bit high for now, but again, I can continue to use these beans to make more vanilla extract afterwards. Also, I used high quality ingredients that will impart far more flavor into my baked goods later on. I imagine this could also be used to make some pretty amazing mixed drinks.
Hopefully this project turns out well! I'll give updates as more time passes.