Friday, February 18, 2011


I love vanilla.  I love vanilla ice cream.  I love vanilla candles. 

Just thinking about it lowers my blood pressure.   

Heaven lies in the vanilla bean; I'm sure of it.  At the very least, I expect that if you get to the pearly gates and present one to St. Peter, he'll definitely let you in. 

In the meantime, you can make your own vanilla extract.  With real vanilla beans.  And real booze.   It's totally easy.

Here is a bottle of my vanilla.  Doesn't it smell great?!   Those dark spots in it are real vanilla beans.  Here's how you do it:

1.  I start with a bottle of brandy.   My fave is E & J.  My husbands initials are E & J, but that's not why I use this.  I use this because it's brandy and it's in a pretty bottle.  

2.  You also need a vanilla bean or two...or twelve.  The more beans you use, the more powerful your extract.

You can get vanilla beans from quality spice places like Penzey's.  I got my last batch from Atlantic Spice Company.  If you're west of the Mississippi, it'll be San Francisco Herb - it's the same company but they ship from San Francisco instead of Massachusetts.  Right now, vanilla beans are $17.50 for 4 oz of beans.   That'll keep you in vanilla extract and vanilla sugar for a few years.   Store the extras in the freezer.  These companies have a minimum order of $30, but the sites are full of all sorts of herbs and spices and containers.    Make sure you check out their Miscellaneous category.  You won't have a problem meeting the $30 minimum; you'll have a problem keeping it at $30.  

3.  You can leave the beans long, but I cut them in smaller lengths because they fit on the bottom of the brandy bottle and stay submerged, thereby continuing to impart full flavor until the very last drop.

4.  Slice each bean lengthwise to expose the center.   It's not a crisis if you cut all the way through.   You're just trying to open the beans and let the seeds hit the brandy.  Some folks say to scrape the seeds out, but you don't have to.

5.  Drop the beans in the brandy bottle.  That's it.  You're done.

6.  You can put it in a window for a week or so and let the sun heat it up and release the vanilla a bit faster [plus brandy loves heat]  or you can just put it in your cupboard.   It's ready to go when you open it up and smell vanilla.


  1. Oh my goodness, I had no idea you could do this. I adore this blog because I continue to learn new things. Can't wait to see what you write next!

  2. Russo - this is so easy, it's embarrassing. Once you try it, you'll never go back. Plus, it's an excuse to buy pretty bottles.

  3. Pretty bottles and homemade vanilla-So there! Thanks for the help, my friend.

  4. Thanks Robin!! Going to order some vanilla beans now!

  5. You can also use bourbon or vodka. Someone gave us a giant bottle of vodka (don't drink) so I dropped about 10 vanilla beans in and waited till Christmas. Poured it into cute bottles I found at Hobby Lobby and gave it as Christmas presents to my friends. They were impressed!

    1. MOM, I've never tried it with vodka or bourbon - I'm glad to hear they're good, too. We don't drink either, but it's sure fun to experiment with the different flavors and vanilla. I've never had a bad batch - and if you take the beans out of the extract and use them when you make jam, yogurt, etc, you get double use out of them. Yum.


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