Making Homemade Vanilla Extract (aka…Why Laura Bought a Gallon of Vodka)

How To Make Vanilla Extract

Yes indeed.  The four boys and I went into Walmart a few days ago for the sole purpose of buying vodka.  A gallon of it.

I felt the need to tell the check out lady why I was buying an entire gallon of vodka.  She just looked at me like I was a lunatic and shrugged as if to say, “Hey, do whatever you want to with your vodka, girl.”

And then she wouldn’t let Justus carry it out of the store.  You know…just in case I was buying the vodka for my nine year old minor.

It made for some good discussion on the way home:  what drinking alcohol can do to your brain…why the lady had to make sure I was over 21 to buy it…why it’s okay to carry a watermelon out of Walmart when you’re nine but not a couple jugs of vodka.

All that to say:  I just started my very first batch of homemade vanilla!!!  I’m super excited.  My friend Jill sent me a beautiful bottle of her homemade vanilla a couple of weeks ago and it’s fabulous!!!  (I guess you could say that I was pressured by a friend into buying alcohol.  “Go ahead Laura…make your own vanilla.  Everyone’s doing it.”)

Now that I’m hooked on the idea…I thought I’d try to influence you too…

You will need:

A gallon jar
One gallon of Vodka (the cheap stuff is fine) (To keep you from standing in the liquor section too long to calculate this…2 bottles of 1.75 liters each will be the exact amount you need to make a gallon of vanilla.)
80 Vanilla Beans (You’ll need about 3/4 pound to have 80 beans) – enter code home for a 10% discount on Vanilla Beans through Olive Nation!!
Kitchen shears

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Begin by slicing through each bean lengthwise, leaving about one inch at the top of each bean uncut so that it stays together.

 

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See?  Like this…

 

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Place all of your cut Vanilla Beans into your jar.
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Fill the jar with vodka.  (I took the following picture with my left hand while pouring the vodka with my right hand.  This proves that apparently…I can really handle my liquor.)

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Once the jar is full with beans and vodka, put the lid on…then put the jar in a dark place (like in the back of a cabinet).  It needs to stay there for FOUR to SIX MONTHS in order to become vanilla extract!  Occasionally, you should get it out and shake it up a bit, then put it back into it’s dark place.

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Here’s the cool thing:  If you start a batch of vanilla really soon…it will be ready in time to put into little bottles and give as Christmas gifts.  (Family members reading this…you have exactly six months to forget all about this post and be surprised on Christmas morning.)  If you don’t get it started right this minute…from what I’ve researched…a little less than six months of “vanilla extracting” time won’t hurt anything.

To complete your vanilla once six months have passed:  strain out your vanilla beans with a coffee filter lined colander and tada…you have vanilla extract!  Bottle it up in dark amber bottles - give it as gifts and start cooking with it yourself!!  Yum!

AND…if you don’t want to make a whole gallon of vanilla…you can make a lesser amount:

  • 1/2 gallon of vanilla….use 1/2 gallon of vodka (1.75 liters) and 40 Vanilla Beans (enter code home for a 10% discount!)
  • 1 quart of vanilla…use one quart of vodka and 20 Vanilla Beans (enter code home for a 10% discount!)

Well…I know I’ve influenced many of you to eat healthier and plant potatoes in a container.  Is it now possible that several of you are going to run out to buy liquor?  Tell the clerk the Heavenly Homemaker sent you.
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Read details on where to purchase small vanilla bottles here. Also, you can read this post to learn how to finish and strain your vanilla after 4-6 months.

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I recommend that you purchase your Vanilla Beans through Olive Nation!!  You’ll receive FREE SHIPPING and if you enter the code home you’ll receive 10% off your entire order!!!!  (The free shipping applies to vanilla bean purchases only!) I bought my most recent batch of vanilla beans through Olive Nation and was VERY happy with their prices, promptness and quality of vanilla beans.  Plus free shipping and a 10% discount?  It can’t be beat!  Thank you Olive Nation for offering HeavenlyHomemakers readers free shipping and a special 10% discount!

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You can purchase dark amber bottles here.

 

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Here’s where I ordered my labels for vanilla bottles. ;)

Comments

  1. Erin says

    I got a jar off of FreeCycle and our local Bible college gets items in gallon glass jars and they will give those jars away. Try places that feed people in bulk. Even our grocery store’s cake decorating department gives away frosting buckets that can be used for grain storage. I prefer glass but have never found anything for storing 50 lbs of wheat that is glass :)

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    Jamie Reply:

    Thanks!

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  2. Cindy says

    How long will the homemade vanilla last?

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    Lacie Reply:

    I wondered the same thing! How long does it stay good?

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    Laura Reply:

    It will stay good for years and years!

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    Laura Reply:

    Cindy – the vanilla will stay good for years!

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  3. Cheryl says

    Is there a 10% off code for olive nation for 2013? I just tried the one posted and it says it’s expired.

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    Laura Reply:

    Thanks for mentioning this! I just emailed them and asked them to reset it. It’s supposed to be good forever, so hopefully I’ll get back with you shortly and tell you that it’s good to go!

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    Spike Reply:

    I just tried the code “home” on the site and it did not work.
    Is there another code? 12/23/13

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    Laura Reply:

    Since this code has not expired, I just tested this. The code “home” did work for me. If you continue to have trouble, you might want to contact Olive Nation – they are very good to work with. One thing: Be sure you’re not entering any other coupon codes as only one will work (free shipping is automatic on this product). Also, I believe the code is case sensitive.

    Nicole B. Reply:

    Go online and search for their coupon codes, I always find a 20% off and vanilla beans are always free shipping.

    Laura Reply:

    Okay, the code is fixed…try again!

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    Cheryl Reply:

    Fantastic! Thanks. It’s my first time ordering beans from them, hope they are good quality

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    Cheryl Reply:

    Although, the beans seem to be good quality, I will not be ordering from Olive Nation ever again. Their custsomer service is extremely poor. Apparently, they don’t value their international customers one bit. I won’t give my business to them again.

  4. Cheryl says

    Fantastic! Thanks. It’s my first time ordering beans from them, hope they are good quality!

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    Cheryl Reply:

    Ack! Sorry. Double post.

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  5. Amy says

    I also make my own vanilla extract. It is so lovely! I wanted to let everyone know that you can take the “spent” vanilla beans (the ones you used to make the extract) and add them to sugar (I use organic, raw, cane sugar). This makes vanilla sugar that is amazing in baked goods that call for sugar and vanilla. Sometimes I give a gift of vanilla extract, vanilla sugar and a cute measuring spoon set as a hostess gift or a much appreciated gift for the bakers in my life.

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    Mindy Reply:

    Just ordered my beans from Olive Nation! I cannot stand spending $8 for a 4 ounce jar anymore, especially as much as I use it. What a price difference and I’m guessing the quality will be phenomenal.

    Amy, when you used the spent beans for sugar, did you grind them up and add them to sugar? How did you do that? Sounds wonderfule!

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  6. barb powers says

    I Ordered my vanilla beans and received about 30 of them last November. I’m very happy with the quality, especially for the price! I’m finally making up two quarts of vanilla with these; one with vodka and the other with whiskey (I have trouble following recipes sometimes (: ) Thanks for being so awesome and sharing so much goodness!

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  7. Linda says

    How do you seal the small bottles after bottling them? My 21yo daughter and I made up a gallon of vanilla just 2 hours before she was ushered into Heaven. I want to bottle the vanilla we were making and give some of it out as gifts to some of her closest friends as they get married this summer/fall. It will be ready for bottling in another couple of months, but I wanted to have everything ready before it’s time.

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    Laura Reply:

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your daughter. You don’t technically have to seal them, but if you like, I found some heat and seal plastic at SKSBottle online.

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  8. joanna says

    i just put 7 van. beans in about 8 oz. of vodka for vanilla. i thought this would be cutting the recipe properly, but the beans are not covered w/ the vodka. should they be?

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    Laura Reply:

    Yes, they do need to be covered with vodka. :)

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  9. Sarah Z says

    If I buy the 1 lb. beans to make this (it’s a better deal than 1/2 lb. and 1/4 lb.) what can I make with the extra beans? I don’t want them to go to waste!!

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    Tracy Compaan Reply:

    Yes, I have this question too! Laura? Can you help us? :)

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    I would try substituting them in some recipes while you wait for your homemade extract to steep. Cut one open and use the seeds in place of vanilla extract in any of your favorite recipes. It should work out well! You could also add some to a smoothie or yogurt for extra flavor. I might even mix some with cream cheese to put on a bagel for a treat!

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  10. Cindy says

    Laura, I know you used Vodka for your vanilla. I saw in the comments that someone else used whiskey. The stuff I buy at the store is in bourbon – can you explain why the different alcohols can be used, and what real difference does it make?

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Laura is not really sure on any of the other kinds of alcohol…she has only used vodka before. Sorry! :)

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Laura is not really sure on any of the other kinds of alcohol…she has only used vodka before. Sorry! :)

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    melanie Reply:

    the vanilla sold in stores is not made from bourbon. It is named Madagascar bourbon vanilla because the vanilla beans are from the Madagascar island of Bourbon.

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    Jaime Reply:

    However, incidentally, extracting Bourbon Vanilla with Bourbon is called a “Double Bourbon Extract”. Those are occasionally sold in stores in the south. Bourbon is typically used with Mexican beans.

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    Nicole B. Reply:

    Cindy, I have made the extract with brandy and it was really really good. I would love to make some with anejo tequila! I know people who also make it with rum. So feel free to experiment. Maybe try small batches with the different liqours. They do impart some flavors to the vanilla, unlike vodka. The fruit liquors would make an amazing extract too…like a citrus, orange, etc.

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  11. Matt says

    Hi Laura! Great info, I Have been making extract for a year or two and noticed you are selling it, have you looked into the legalities of this considering it is basically flavored alcohol? I am interested in selling my extract at farmers market and woneer if you have any info for me?

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    Laura Reply:

    It depends on the rules at your farmer’s market, but we were able to sell ours without jumping through any extra hoops of any kind. :)

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    cheryl Reply:

    Every state may be different. I checked on that in Michigan and the biggest rule was that you had to sell your extract in person and not mail order.

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  12. Cindy says

    I’m curious – you say cheap vodka is fine. My husband thinks the more quality alcohol, the better the end result (which in theory makes sense – better ingredients, better extract). Is it more the quality of the vanilla beans that is important?

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    The quality of bean is important. The better quality you use the better the flavor.

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  13. says

    What size amber bottles do you purchase? Do they come with the lids or are those sold separately?

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    Laura Reply:

    I get 2 ounce, 4 ounce, and 8 ounce bottles and give them as gifts according to how much the recipient likes to bake! :) The lids come with them.

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  14. Stacia Amiot says

    I just received 16oz of vanilla beans from Olive Nation and it only contains 63 beans. It was stated that you need 80 beans (about 3/4 lb) per gallon of vodka. Do I go by bean count or weight of beans when measuring out the amt of vodka? It seems to me that 16oz of beans should warrant at least a gal of vodka, but is that correct?

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    Laura Reply:

    I always go by bean count, and seemed to remember that I got a few more than 80 in a 3/4 pound package. Go ahead and use the 63 in the one gallon. It’ll will turn out great!

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    spike Reply:

    I ordered 1/2 lb. and got 92 beans.
    So I used 40 beans/48oz. vodka, 25/32oz. Bourbon, and 25/32oz.Rum.
    I read that the Bourbon and Rum give a different flavor and are good
    for other uses then cooking. Do you think there are enough beans per
    liquid volume?

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  15. Deane says

    I kust bought two bottles of vodka and they are in glass. Could I just split the vanilla beans in half and put them into the two bottles?

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    Missy Reply:

    My question is similar – I didn’t have a glass gallon jar but used 4 quart jars and put 20 beans in each jar and filled the jars to the rIm with vodka. I’m guessing this is ok too? :)

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    Monica Reply:

    I have the same question. I didn’t see a response. Wondering if you tried this with success?

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    Laura Reply:

    That will work just fine!

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Yes, that will work out great!

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  16. Amy Pederson says

    I was curious about one of the labels from the Delight Design website. One of the labels said, “double strength”. Does this recipe make double strength vanilla? What is double strength vanilla? Thank you for answering. I can’t wait to get started.

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    Laura Reply:

    I don’t know all the specifics on double strength vanilla, but I can say that I use half the amount called for in recipes because it is so strong. :)

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  17. says

    I tried reading a lot of the comments to see if you had already answered this question but didn’t see it, so I’m going to ask away.
    Could you use the the vanilla beans for another batch or are they “done” after one batch?
    Thank you for your time.
    Kim

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    You could reuse them, but only use half the amount of vodka so the vanilla comes out the strength you want.

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  18. Ann says

    I have been making this vanilla for 3 yrs now. Super stuff. I do repurpose the beans, just not in more vodka. Let them dry out completely. I add them into sugar. I typically make 10lbs at a time. You do need to shake the sugar every day or so, depending on how fast you want it done. I have mine in the kitchen so I see it every day and remember to shake. The longer its in there the more intense the flavor. I gift this sugar along with the vanilla and other stuff in baskets. Oh, I also cut a 2-3″ piece of the bean and include it in the sugar. Hope this helps.

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    Amy H Reply:

    Hi Ann! I’m interested in using my beans to make vanilla sugar. Do you leave your beans whole when you add them to the sugar? I’ve read different methods where people scrape just the seeds and others who put the whole beans into the blender and then add to the sugar. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

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  19. cara says

    What does everyone use for the 1 gallon jar?

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    cheryl Reply:

    Anyone looking for the glass jars, go to your local pizza shops and ask if they get any of their foods in glass jars and if you can have a couple of them. My local shop gave me theirs from the green olives they get.

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    J.J. Reply:

    Also check your local grocer or deli. If they have an olive bar, they are bound to have glass jars.

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  20. Cindy says

    Curious – we tried using this (just half what the recipe called for) in some homemade ice cream. Our ice cream didn’t turn out. We’ve now tested our ice cream maker again, using store-bought vanilla (still pure), and it turned out fine. Have you used this to make homemade vanilla ice cream? Can it not be done due to the high alcohol content? We can still give it for some gifts, and use it in other baking, but we were sure hoping we could use it in our homemade vanilla ice cream, but were so disappointed… Help?

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Hmmm. That is odd. Laura hasn’t had this problem and I do not have an ice cream maker so I am not sure that we can be much help on this one. I am wondering though if the alcohol is killing the process…I wish I could be more help! Sorry. :(

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  21. Cindy says

    How long can the beans stay in the alcohol? I don’t really want to buy enough amber bottles for ALL the vanilla we made – I want to just buy a few bottles to make up one quart jar, and leave the other quart jars “brewing” until we’ve used all the bottled stuff. But should it ideally NOT stay in the alcohol with the beans longer than 6 months?

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    CHERYL Reply:

    I had read on another site about real vanilla extract is that it is at its best when soaking for at least 2 years, so, let her soak.

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    You can absolutely let it soak longer. The only thing to be aware of is that the longer it soaks the stronger the vanilla. You may need to adjust to taste when you use it in recipes. It will be delicious though!

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  22. Denise says

    My vanilla still smells like Vodka not vanilla after sitting for 7 1/2 months and ideas what to do? Get more beans and add them or dump and start over? anyone else have this problem or just me. thanks

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    Lisa Reply:

    The vanilla beans you used were probably not of good quality. I personally would purchase beans from a different source and add them to the current batch. There is nothing wrong with the alcohol, therefore dumping it would be unnecessary.

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    Melanie Reply:

    Did you slice open your beans or just submerge them?

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Slice them, leaving about an inch on each end so they stay together. :)

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    Melanie Reply:

    @ LindseyforLaura, thank you, but I was asking that question of Denise, the commentor who had beans in her vodka for 7 months with no luck. Thought maybe that was the problem.

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Oh! Haha…I missed that part. ;)

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    You can still use the vanilla even if it has a vodka smell to it. It will all bake out anyways and you are left with a yummy vanilla flavor. I wouldn’t dump it and start over. :)

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  23. Terra W says

    I will be attempting my first batch of homemade vanilla tomorrow! So excited! Though, I’m only going to do 1 pint for starters.

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  24. Tracy Compaan says

    I did it! I finally got up the nerve to go and buy a bottle of vodka, and then I already had the vanilla beans from the amazing 20% off sale at Olive Nation, so the beans are cut, and steeping in the vodka in a jar in a dark cabinet! I am so excited! So, wondered what fun I can make with the remaining unused vanilla beans. Maybe 10 of them. guess I could have bought more vodka. But vanilla sugar sounds good!

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  25. BetsyD says

    Based on your recommendation, I am diving in to this project! I purchased the beans from Olive Nation, but only had enough $$ to purchase 4 oz. for now which looks like 25ish beans. How much vodka should I purchase and couldn’t I just drop the beans in the bottle of vodka rather than purchasing another jar? Sorry if these are silly questions, but this is a little out of my comfort zone! :)

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    Angela Reply:

    Since the original uses a gallon, two 1.75 bottles, your could purchase one bottle and put half in another container since 20 beans would quarter her recipe. Or add a tad more than half vodka and put the five left overs. Split the beans, and put em in the bottle would probably be alright,being as hhow the main thing is for them to soak. You could save ur left over vodka for future batch or if you have a mint plant, they have similar recipes online to make mint extract, using a quart vodka, which would be ur half bottle you have left, and a half cup of mint leave bruised(rubbed together to damage the leaves) Then they soak it a month. Makes a mint extract. If you do that, I’d split the bottle, and use the five extra beans either in the vodka and just makes it a Lil stronger vanilla or do as others and makes the vanilla sugar. :-)

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    melanie Reply:

    what a great reply. love the idea to make mint extract! thank you

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  26. Stephanie says

    I was wondering how much you charge for your vanilla. A few people have asked to buy mine, but I don’t know how much to charge.
    Thank you!

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    Laura Reply:

    At this point, we are charging $16 for a 4 ounce bottle and $29 for an 8 ounce bottle. This price has shipping costs figured in, so when we sell to someone local, we subtract shipping costs.

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  27. Christy says

    I’m assuming that the Olive Nation beans are not organic, unless I missed it somewhere on their website. I’m also assuming you’re okay with that, since you’re usually very thorough in researching such things. Any thoughts or reasonings on that issue? I made a batch of vanilla 2 years ago using the Olive Nation beans, so I’m not questioning quality or anything, I just thought I ought to make another batch and suddenly was curious about going organic.

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    Laura Reply:

    They aren’t labeled organic. But my husband has done a lot of research on vanilla beans and found that there are actually none available anywhere that are not organic. They are only grown in a few locations in the world, and none of those locations use pesticides, etc. So while they don’t have an organic label, they actually are organic. :)

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    Christy Reply:

    Excellent! Thanks! And thanks to your hubby for doing the research. I suppose I could have researched that more myself, but since my own four boys are currently 4, 3, 2, and 6 months, it was easier just to ask. :) I use your site for a lot of things — thanks for all your work here!

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  28. Tara says

    I usually buy imitation vanilla that isn’t too costly. What is the advantage of making your own because it seems like till you buy the beans and vodka it is going to be quite expensive. My mom always told me to only use real vanilla in vanilla icing recipes.

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    Laura Reply:

    I avoid imitation vanilla because I prefer to stick with real food and avoid fake food. Imitation vanilla is a chemical flavoring, whereas vanilla extract is all real and natural. Plus it is delicious!

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  29. debbie says

    I am so excited to try this, after seeing your posts about it! I am going to try it with Vegetable Glycerin instead of alcohol. I hope it works!

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    Tara Reply:

    I thought I saw on here something you made up to put with your vanilla sugar and homemade vanilla when you give away as gifts. It was to tell the recipient what to do with it. Do you have this somewhere? I can’t seem to find it.

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  30. Alice Wimple says

    Laura, I ordered the vanilla beans just as you said. I ordered 1 1/2 lbs to make 2 gallons of vanilla extract. You said 3/4 lb. would be good for 80 beans. I have 130 beans combined, not enough to cover the 2 gallons as you suggested. Can I split them 65 & 65 or will that not be enough? I want to make it right away.

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    Laura Reply:

    Yes that will work. I’ve noticed lately that the beans are bigger than they used to be, which might be why there are fewer beans in a pound. Because they are bigger, this amount will be just fine for your vanilla!

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  31. Alice Wimple says

    Laura, I was wrong. Only 110 beans came in 1 1/2 lbs. I see lots of recipes with a lot less beans. So is 55 enough for the gallon?

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    Laura Reply:

    Still fine. :)

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    Tara Reply:

    I am wondering I just got 146 bean in 1 pound. I did the 80 but do you think I should do more? I was going to get maybe another half gallon of vodka to do another batch. I noticed on some other sites that they have you do 7-8 beans per cup of vodka and then only leave it for about 8 weeks instead of 4-6 months. Is this because you are doing smaller amounts or are they just not getting as rich a flavor?

    [Reply]

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