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How to… make your own Vanilla Extract

When you’re a baker, there are some ingredients that are staples in your kitchen – flour, sugar, eggs, yeast, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and vanilla extract. If you’re making a cake, scones, tarts – or anything on the sweet side – you’ll likely put vanilla extract in it, even if it’s not a primarily vanilla flavour you’re after, vanilla extract will give your bake a bit of lift. However, it only comes in small bottles of around 60ml up to 118ml and it’ll set you back £4 to £8 a pop.

So, what if you could make your own?

Well, as you’ve probably figured out from the title of this article – you can! And it’s very, very easy. All you need is time and patience.

Oh, and vanilla pods and vodka! You can’t just make vanilla extract from just time and patience, sadly.

Here’s a complete list of what you need:

  • 500ml Vodka
  • 10 x Vanilla Pods
  • 500ml Bottle, Sterilised

That’s all you need. To get started, sterilise the bottles by heating the oven to 140°C/285°F/Gas Mark 1 and wash your bottles in hot, soapy water, place on a baking sheet (laying down) and place them in the oven to dry completely. If they’re kilner bottles, be sure to remove the rubber seals and sterilise them in boiling water, as placing them in the oven will damage them.

Once your bottles are sterilised, split your vanilla pods down the middle with a sharp knife – but don’t cut them completely in half – and pop them into your bottle, leaving all of the seeds intact. Then, using a funnel, fill the bottle with vodka – it doesn’t have to be expensive vodka – and seal the bottle and then leave for about a month to allow the vanilla pods to infuse with the vodka, shaking the bottle every few days.

You’re probably thinking “what’s the benefit of making my own vanilla extract?”

Well, for one thing is the cost. I managed to make 1 litre of Vanilla Extract using this method. If you wanted a litre of Vanilla Extract by purchasing it from a store, you’d have to buy 17 bottles of Vanilla Extract which are £4 each for 60ml. That would set you back £68! Whereas the costs for my Vanilla Extract were as so:

20 x Vanilla Pods @ £1.50 each = £30
1 litre of Vodka = £16
Total = £46

That’s a saving of £22, which is pretty significant by itself, but the major advantage of having your own bottle of Vanilla Extract is you can top it up continuously. Just add used vanilla pods – you can use whole ones or ones you’ve removed the seeds from for recipes – and add them to the bottle to strengthen the flavour, and keep a cheap bottle of vodka to hand and you’ll be able to keep topping up the extract indefinitely and you’ll never need to buy another bottle of Vanilla Extract again.

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