Handmade Gift: Vanilla Extract

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I’m starting a new weekly series on the blog called “Handmade Gifts”. With the holiday season upon us, it’s fun to think outside the box a little with your gift giving. I tried to cover a wide range of gift options based on who the recipient is (anyone from a foodie to a beauty lover), and today I’m starting with homemade vanilla extract! I’m doing this one first so you have time to get some made prior to Christmas!

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Do you know how easy it is to make homemade vanilla extract?

I almost feel stupid writing a blog post about it that could be summed up in about 3 sentences, but in case you are new to the process, allow me to explain in excessive detail.

Here is what you need: 

Vodka (anywhere from 35%/70 proof to 40%/80 proof)

Vanilla beans (I have found them at Whole Foods or bought them off of Amazon)

Knife and cutting board

Time (1-3 months)

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I opted to simply add the vanilla beans to the jar of vodka, but if you would like you can get a separate jar and pour the vodka into it. If you do choose a separate jar, make sure it is glass.

The ratio will vary from recipe to recipe, but I’ve found the average to be about 3-5 beans per 8 fl oz of vodka. You’ll need the right about of beans given the amount of vodka you are working with. I used about 24 ounces of vodka, and added 10 vanilla beans.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the vanilla bean in half on one side (like a hot dog bun).

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You’ll see all the delicious vanilla beans inside if you spread the bean apart. This is where all the flavor comes from!

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Once all the beans are sliced, drop them into the jar of vodka. Give it a good shake too.

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Using a permanent marker, label the bottle with the date you made this concoction so you can gauge when it will be ready by. Anywhere from 1 to 3 months is good for the extract to get nice and strong. You’ll also want to give the bottle a good shake every few weeks, so store it somewhere out of the way, that won’t get forgotten about.

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If you want to jump the gun on your packaging for your homemade vanilla extract, now is as good as a time as ever to prep your bottles! I bought a few from World Market. They have the best options for kitchen-y jars and bottles.

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The paint pens were found on Amazon. They are made to work on glass, paper, wood, clay, porcelain, stone, metal and mirrors.

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Have fun with your bottle decoration! Packaging is what will make this gift most special!

Helpful tips:

-If you decide to pour the extract into the individual bottles for gifts after only 1 month (for example if you decide to make this for Christmas gifts on November 25th. . .), drop a fresh vanilla bean into the bottle before you pour the extract. That will help ensure you’ll get the full vanilla flavor in the extract!

-If your bottles are smaller, it’s perfectly okay to cut the bean in half.

-Decorating your bottles like this is cute too! or THIS!

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Lori-Ann says · 11.06.14

Thanks for this!

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rachel says · 11.06.14

thank you! our baby is due in January and we are looking to cut back on Christmas expenses by incorporating my homemade/handmade goods for people’s gifts; this will be a very helpful series!

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Ann says · 11.06.14

I love this – we have been doing this for years. You can also use bourbon.

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rachel says · 11.06.14

ooooh now that sounds tasty!

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Kate says · 11.06.14

Yes, you are right!

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Laura H. says · 11.06.14

Yay!!! I love this post. I know a lot of us are on a budget these days and these handmade gifts not only solve that issue but also add a personal touch that everyone will inevitably end up enjoying more anyhow….
I am thinking about doing some homemade sugar scrubs – tons of tutorials out there on Pintrest.
Thanks!

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Chrissy says · 11.06.14

I love this idea! Never even thought of making my own vanilla extract. Thanks!!

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Courtney says · 11.06.14

I love this one, but can’t wait to see the beauty ones!! I’m a beauty guru!!

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Vickie Yount says · 11.06.14

Thanks for the wonderful idea. Going to amazon and world market to order stuff today so it will be ready for Christmas gifts!

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Kathy says · 11.06.14

LOVE this post! And love you even more, one of very few people I know who use Cutco knives. How about a post sponsored by them?

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Lynette says · 11.06.14

love my Cutco knives!!

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Samantha says · 11.06.14

What a neat idea! It looks easy, but I’m sure I’ll find some way to mess it up 😉 I’m excited to try anyway!

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amy watson says · 11.06.14

I have been making vanilla extract for years, it is so much better than store bought….l also make vanilla sugar, l started doing that a couple of years ago and everybody l have given it to loves it….another great gift is homemade hot chocolate l make it from scratch and give it in big beautiful mugs….

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Abbie says · 11.09.14

What are your recipes for the vanilla sugar and hot chocolate?

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Katrina says · 11.06.14

I assume this stuff keeps basically forever; however it takes me ages to use a bottle of vanilla extract, so at any point should the beans be removed or can you just leave them in there indefinitely? Also, does the vodka quality make a difference in the final product?

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Kate says · 11.06.14

I don’t think the vodka quality makes a significant difference, and I would imagine after about 3 months you can remove the beans!

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rkhare says · 11.06.14

if you are concerned about the vodka, run it through your brita!
see the america’s test kitchen video (alton brown says the same thing)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a5Kl0re2Xw

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Emily says · 11.06.14

I have done this before and have found that it keeps best in a dark place or in a dark bottle. NOTHING compares to the flavor of homemade vanilla extract 🙂

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Sandy Green says · 11.06.14

Hi Kate, Long time follower here, never commented. I love this idea! It seems so easy and since I’m definitely going to do this, it’ll be a great gift for my foodie friends! Thanks so much for sharing. I also love this idea for a weekly series!

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Charmaine says · 11.06.14

Hi Kate,

I did this last year for gifts…it was a huge hit! I started mine in July and by December it was heavenly. I also did a bourbon version as well. I actually didn’t cut my beans open at all…just put them right in the bottle. Then when I need real vanilla beans for something, I take one out cut off the tip and squeeze the beans out…works great! Also, if you are putting a bean in the packaged bottle you may want to make sure the receipients know to either remove it or add more vodka if the liquid goes below the bean inside. If left uncovered the bean will get moldy and ruin the vanilla. I made tags with this information on there. I put mine in corked bottles and sealed them with wax. I also made vanilla sugar to go along with it for my gifts!

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Caitlin says · 11.06.14

This is such a great idea for a blog series! I love your beauty posts, but the holiday season is perfect time to change things up a bit!

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Jessica says · 11.06.14

This just blew my mind. I had no idea a real person could make this! Haha Note to self: find recipes that calls for copious amounts of vanilla extract this holiday season….

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Anne says · 11.06.14

Hi Kate,
I have been giving away handmade gifts for the past three years and my favourites are Brownies/Cookies in a jar (put all dry ingredients in the correct order in a jar (has a great layered look) and add the recipe with all further information) or mixed herbs for chili or pizza (also in a small jar).

Since I’m looking for some new inspiration for this year’s Christmas season, your new blog series just has the most perfect timing 🙂
Greetings from Germany!!!

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Tyana says · 11.06.14

Thats actually really awesome

Check me out
xx
Tyana
theluxedition.blogspot.com
bloglovin.com/theluxedition

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Sara w says · 11.06.14

I did this last year following the our best bites tutorial and did some with rum and some with vodka-the rum is my favorite you should give it a try! As for time, some of mine has now been steeping for a year and it’s good-by three months it wasn’t ready 🙁 I got some amber apothecary jars and they worked really well! After you’re done you can squeeze out and freeze the bean paste and then dry out and pulverize the pods for vanilla bean powder if you want!

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Jessica says · 11.07.14

Agree, rum is better, and it takes me at least 6 months to get a good strong extract, regardless of the alcohol. I don’t think these will be ready in time for Christmas.

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Sara w says · 11.08.14

They can definitely be given, but maybe just let the recipient know it needs more time?

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Evelyn says · 11.06.14

Cool!! Didn’t know that!!

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Becca | In My Humble Opinion says · 11.06.14

Such a great idea! I didn’t even know you could do this!

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Natalie says · 11.06.14

Ok stupid question…. Will it turn brown eventually like store bought vanilla? Or does it stay clear? Not that it really matters, just curious!

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miriam says · 11.06.14

it goes brown, i am still working my way through a home made bottle i got given 3 Christmases ago – lovely!

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Sara w says · 11.07.14

It does get brown, but it will likely never be as dark as commercial as they usually add food coloring. Go by smell and taste to determine when it’s ‘ready’ rather than color.

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Jennifer Appleton says · 11.06.14

My brother and sister-in-law gave us homemade vanilla extract for a gift last year! 🙂

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lynn says · 11.06.14

Just wanted to say HOW EXCITED I am for this series! LOVE IT!

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Natalie G says · 11.06.14

I started mine a month ago after seeing the idea on another blog. I used Rum and can’t wait to try the vanilla when it’s ready! I divided mine into mason jars and put 5-6 vanilla beans in each. One thing I read somewhere is that if you slice open the beans before you soak them, you’ll end up with bean “floaties” that you may want to strain as it’ll make for cloudy vanilla. I’m sure the vanilla will be awesome either way!

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runwright says · 11.06.14

Simple but useful. I’m going to do this! I planned to create handmade gifts for all the people on my gift list this year andI’d like to not have to knit a scarf for everyone 🙂 This is a great idea.
Please check out my blog where I’m sharing my gift-ideas too.

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Pamela says · 11.06.14

Hmmmm how would this differ from vanilla vodka?…now that I’m interested in lol!!

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Caitlyn says · 11.07.14

Ahh! LOVING this idea for a new series! Can’t wait to try this and can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Thank you!

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Alma Vee says · 11.07.14

This sounds like a great idea. I don’t really use vanilla extract – don’t really bake – but it would be nice to have around on the off chance I do. Definitely will be giving this to friends.

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kate says · 11.07.14

I did this last year too, and I’m here to ask all those that say they’ve done it too…. I’m not a fan! If you’re using the vanilla in a baked recipe where the alcohol is cooked down, great. If you’re using the vanilla in icing or frosting, the alcohol ruins the recipe! It’s such a strong overwhelming/not good flavor 🙁 I used quality vodka, and it wasn’t a case of one bottle gone bad. I don’t know the secret to getting rid of the alcohol flavor, but I tossed all of mine and went back to purchasing my vanilla.

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Sara w says · 11.07.14

Real vanilla extract IS alcohol. If you don’t like the flavor is try rum, which I preferred. Or you can keep immitation extract on hand for recipes like frosting or use significantly less. Just a few suggestions.

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Paige says · 11.07.14

Do NOT give these away at 1 month!!! That’s not even close to the correct amount of time for the extraction. 3-6 months is much more realistic and will actually be a full vanilla flavor (read = not tasting the alcohol). Rum or bourbon add fantastic flavor as well

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Kim says · 11.07.14

This is the BEST idea! I can’t wait to make a batch. I’m so excited to see what gifts you make in the coming weeks. Thanks for the great idea!

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Casey Smith says · 11.07.14

We made this as our wedding favor and everyone loved it!

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Miriam says · 11.08.14

What a cool idea!

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Emily Upton says · 11.08.14

Love this! My mom has homemade vanilla she received as a gift and I have always wanted to make my own but didn’t have the ratios. Thanks for the great post 🙂

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Jenny says · 11.08.14

I love this! Last year I received hand made gifts at Christmas and those were my favorite, so this year I was wanting to try and make some to gift. I know a few people who would love this 🙂
xx
Jenny

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Katie D. says · 11.09.14

Funny things I just discovered this great homemade gift idea too, bought the same bottles and everything. Such a cute idea, and very handy for bakers! Nice job 🙂 I like how you wrote on the bottles with the paint pens, that’s a cute idea – I made tags and tied them around the neck with bakers twine. I made some for myself and can’t wait to start using it in a few months!

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ali says · 11.10.14

hi! i just wanted to say that i’m pretty new to the blogging world and you’re my biggest inspiration. you continue to inspire me daily, and if you by chance do see this, thank you!

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Jennifer says · 11.10.14

Has anyone been able to source less expensive vanilla beans? Where I live in the CA Bay Area, one vanilla bean is $8. This turns into a very expensive prospect very quickly!

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Sara w says · 11.10.14

Vanilla beans are spendy when you try to buy them piecemeal-I got Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans on amazon very reasonably-it was the source given by Our Best Bites when they did their tutorial a couple years ago. Much, much less expensive.

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Jennifer says · 11.10.14

Awesome, thank you!

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Betsy says · 11.10.14

Love the new series! I can’t wait to read more great ideas, especially with the holidays coming up. I did want to also share, I’ve made vanilla infused vodka (even featured it on my blog) as a homemade Christmas present and the process to make that is very similar. The vanilla beans just need to be pulled out between 3 days and 1 week after to create infused and delicious vodka, great for Christmas-y cocktails. However, I’m really excited about trying out the longer infused method you show here so I can end up with vanilla extract.

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Christen says · 11.14.14

I made my own version of Homemade Vanilla Extract too! Watch it here: http://bit.ly/VanillaExtractHomemade

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Lacey says · 11.17.14

Made this this weekend as a thank you gift for the gal
Who is doing the alterations for my wedding dress. Seemed thoughtful. Thanks for the idea! Super easy and inexpensive.

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Beth Schmidt says · 11.26.14

Just finished making 12, 5 oz bottles with three beans a piece. I got my bottles on Amazon…they are actually for hot sauce I think but make the perfect gift bottle for cheap. I’m so glad you are dong these homemade gift ideas…I love it! All our friends are getting these the year.

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