Last year, after a conversation with some co-workers, I decided to try making my own vanilla extract at home. How hard could it be? From the research I did – not hard at all. In fact, pretty darn simple.

I ordered some vanilla beans from amazon. You can buy them in bulk there and it’s a pretty great deal when you consider that two vanilla beans at the grocery store can cost anywhere from $10-$15. ¬†Once you have your vanilla beans, then you just need some alcohol. I used bourbon and vodka. Not together.

Get a bottle of whichever you choose and put a bunch of beans in it. You can split the beans open before you do that if you’d like, or not. I did some each way and I’m not sure I noticed any difference. After you have a bunch of beans in there, put that bottle somewhere cool and dark and forget about it for a few months. You should occasionally slosh it around, swirl it around, mix it up, etc. Get that vanilla mixed all through.

A few months later, you have vanilla extract. That’s it.

You can put it in pretty bottles if you’re giving it away or just want it to be in pretty bottles. Otherwise, you can just keep it in that big bottle of alcohol and use it from there. If you’re picky you might want to strain it out before you use it. I’m picky. I strained it using coffee filters before I put it into the pretty bottles (that I also ordered from amazon).

I found that I liked the vodka extract better than the bourbon. The vodka was really smooth and subtle, but the bourbon extract kind of punches you in the face a bit. I bought vodka from a local distillery so that felt good too. Definitely my favorite.

Once you’re done bottling, you can also save and dry out those beans and then grind them up in sugar to make vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar is delicious in tea, or in recipes, or even sprinkled over those pre-made croissants you buy in the tube.

Make things. It’s fun.