A few years ago, I started making organic vanilla extract and used it for my cookies, baking, sweet potato casserole, etc. I even use it to scent bath salts. Once you start making your own, you will be hard pressed to use store bought again. It is so easy to make a big jar, pour into smaller bottles to use and/or give to your baking friends and family.
Vanilla Extract needs to be started asap so that it will be ready to use for the holidays.
I always buy my vanilla beans at Mountain Rose Herbs. Please, don’t use those dried up vanilla beans that are readily available in just about every grocery store. For an exquisite full bodied vanilla extract, you need nice plump, flavorful beans.
To extract the vanilla, I use Organic Grape Alcohol from Alchemical Solutions and have personally verified with them that it is vegan. The only thing is, the smallest size they offer is a one gallon jug. So this is the time you call on your friends and family that would want to make some delicious vanilla extract too and divide it up evenly so you can all share the cost. This organic grape alcohol can also be used to make your herbal tinctures and room sprays, it really is nice to have on hand. Keep it stored in a cool dark place with a TIGHT fitting lid and it will last a very long time.
I make everything vegan and Barnivore offers a whole list of vegan vodkas that could also be used to make vanilla extract. It’s kind of nice to conveniently buy it right at your local liquor store too.
There probably are many recipes for vanilla extract as far as how many beans to add, measurements, etc., my method is very simple and here it is.
Organic Vanilla Extract Recipe
What You Need:
One sterile Canning Jar (what size depends on how much you want to make, it lasts a very long time so I use a big jar)
Organic Vanilla Beans (enough to fill the jar 1/2 full-be generous)
Vodka (enough to cover the beans and fill the jar)
With a sharp steak knife, carefully split each bean lengthwise to expose the inside. You don’t need to split the bean in half lengthwise, just cut a slit.
Add the beans (push them down) to the clean canning jar.
Pour in the alcohol; don’t fill completely to the top, leave about a one inch space.
Optional, take a piece of plastic wrap and cover the mouth of the jar
Cap tightly, label and store in a cool dark place such as your pantry.
The longer you let it extract, the more potent it will be. I used my vanilla after six weeks. However, I use more beans than most other recipes call for and I would shake the jar almost daily. I believe I used about 12 beans for my large canning jar.
I still have some left in my (big) jar from last year. The beans are still in it and I just pour off into a small bottle as needed.
If you want to pour into smaller bottles for gift giving, add a fresh cut piece of vanilla bean to the bottle first, this will add even more to the flavor and is a nice touch too.
To use it for bath salts, the vanilla extract needs to sit out in the open air for several hours or over-night. This will help to dissipate the odor of the alcohol, leaving a beautiful sweet vanilla smell. You don’t need much to scent the salts, so pour a small amount into a glass cup or ramekin and leave out uncovered for several hours. I leave mine out over-night in the garage, that way the smell is contained and it is away from curious kitty cats.
I don’t measure when I make bath salts, but I would say to add several drops to a cup of bath salts. I love salt baths and probably use at least two cups per bath and end up adding a teaspoon or so of the extract to the salts. Mix it in and store in a jar or use right away in a luxurious, comforting vanilla bath.
You can also use vanilla beans to make vanilla sugar. I don’t normally use much sugar, but this could be used for a sugar scrub too. Take one bean and slit down the center. Use the back of a knife to scrape the seeds right into the jar of sugar (I use Florida Crystals), mix it up, then add the vanilla bean making sure that it is buried into the sugar. In one –two weeks you have vanilla sugar.
To make a sugar scrub, just add some of the sugar to a dish and drizzle in your favorite oil until it is the consistency that you like. In the shower, use your hands to apply the scrub in a circular motion to condition and exfoliate your skin. Did you know that you can also use sugar scrubs to shave with? You can and it will not burn like salt if you have any little cuts or scratches. Enjoy!
Pennie Mills of Vegan Aesthetics (formerly Ladies Blend) creates cruelty free vegan jewelry and housewares, she is an avid supporter of animal rights, animal welfare and donates continuously to animal charities.