Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Vanilla & Almond Extract

If you're an avid baker like me, then you use a lot of vanilla extract throughout the year.  In the past I would bring my own bottle to the store and fill it up in the bulk section, but that is expensive; and imitation vanilla....nope, not in this house!  One day I decided to make my own!  Here's how you do it:

To make vanilla extract, you will need:
12 ounces of vodka or rum
2 vanilla beans (sliced and cut into 1-2 inch pieces)

*I recommend going to a food co-op or natural food store to purchase the vanilla beans in the bulk section.  You will pay about $2.50 per bean.  The beans should be long and somewhat moist with a strong aroma.  If you go to a regular grocery store, they are typically sold in a skinny plastic tube and they are much shorter and somewhat dry. *

In a bottle, add the sliced and cut vanilla beans to the alcohol.  Every couple of days, shake the bottle.  Store the bottle in a dark place.  After a couple of months, the extract is ready to use.  I've read everywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months for fermentation.  The longer the mixture ferments, the stronger the flavor.  The beans can always be kept in the jar(s) to intensify the flavor even when the fermentation is finished.  Some people keep adding more alcohol to the beans and continue the fermentation process because the beans still have more "juice" left.

I have made vanilla extract with vodka and rum.  I prefer the vodka because the rum smell never seems to go away no matter how long the extract ferments.  Just a personal preference, that's all.

I enjoy this extract so much, that I give it away as gifts!  It sounds silly, but some people really do enjoy these kind of quirky practical gifts.  I purchased one dozen, 4 ounce jars from Mountain Rose Herbs located in Eugene, OR.  These are the perfect size for gifts.  To give it that added touch, I made cute labels.

To make almond extract, you will need
2 cups brandy or vodka
4 oz. peeled, blanched almonds.

1. To blanch almonds, pour boiling water over the almonds in a bowl.  The water should cover all of the almonds.  Let the almonds sit for 1 minute, no longer.  Drain the hot water, rinse the almonds with cold water, and rinse again.  Pat dry and slip the skins off.

2. After the almonds are blanched, grind them up very small. (I used a food processor.)

3. Add the alcohol and ground almonds to a bottle.  Shake the jar every couple of days and store in a dark place.  The amount of time needed for the fermentation is the same that I wrote about vanilla extract.

The bottle on the left is vanilla extract and the bottle on the left is almond extract.  You can see the almonds and vanilla beans sitting on the bottom of the bottles. 

These are the 4 oz bottles that I use for gifts.  

These are vanilla beans.  The bottom bean is 7.5 inches long!

These are the labels I attach to the jars for gifts. 


Phoebe November 4, 2011 at 9:41 PM  

Great minds think alike! I have finally had time to catch up on my reading, lo and behold I read this post today and I had started my own batch of vanilla simple syrup a couple of days ago and I was just thinking this morning while looking at my left over vanilla bean "I bet I could make my own vanilla flavoring for baking somehow... Thanks for the post, I'll get right on it. If someone hasn't drank all the vodka.

jenn merfee-t November 7, 2011 at 10:32 PM  

When I received a bottle of your supremely delicious vanilla extract, I wondered why I'd ever bought the store vanilla and immediately made my own big ol' bottle of the good stuff. It is so scrumptious (Oh, the aroma!) that I don't think I'll ever be purchasing vanilla in a little bottle in the supermarket again. Who knew it was so easy to change my ways? You did.

Thanks, Phoebe, for the idea of making vanilla syrup. I look forward to concocting that in my kitchen.

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A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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