Start Making Homemade Vanilla for Christmas!

vanilla_beans

About a year ago, I told you about my vodka buying adventures. Fun times. It’s always neat to be carded when you’re in your 30’s. I was so honored. And also embarrassed.  Hey, I was buying an entire gallon of vodka at one time. I looked like I was going a little overboard. Like a crazy lady who took her four children to the store with her at nine o’clock in the morning to buy a gallon of booze.

Well anyway, it was well worth it as I handed out nice bottles of homemade vanilla for Christmas last year. And as I continue to pull out bottles of homemade vanilla for our own use. Mmmmmm…it’s so delicious!

I know it’s a little bit early to be thinking about Christmas. Never mind – it’s never to early to be thinking about Christmas gifts. Starting now and planning ahead can save a lot of money. That’s why I’m writing this little post.

It takes six months to make good, strong homemade vanilla. If you’d like to give homemade vanilla to family and friends this Christmas…you’ll need to purchase vanilla beans and start making your vanilla soon! If you get all of your supplies in order now and get the vanilla started in June, you’ll be all set for Christmas!

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Read this post about how to make homemade vanilla. (By the way, making vanilla is so completely easy!)
  2. Order Vanilla Beans (You’ll find details on the amount of beans you need here.)  If you order vanilla beans through Olive Nation you will receive free shipping, PLUS if you use the code home you will receive 10% off your order! I’ve been very pleased with the beans I ordered through Olive Nation!
  3. Buy some cheap vodka. (You’re on your own with this one. Best wishes.)
  4. Get ahold of a big jar to make your vanilla.
  5. Get your vanilla beans and put into your vodka (as directed here) to start extracting.

Then…in the next few months, you can

  1. Start thinking about purchasing small bottles for your vanilla gifts.
  2. Look into these fun Vanilla Recipe Cards to add to your gifts.

Comments

  1. says

    I have to say I disagree on the vodka. I have been homemade vanilla several times now. The first time I used cheap vodka and the other times I have used something a little more expensive. The vanilla with the more expensive vodka was so much better. It really did make a difference. Now I did not buy really expensive vodka,it just was not the cheapest I could find.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Oh, very interesting! I’ve only made it twice, and felt it turned out great with the cheap stuff. But, I guess I don’t have anything to compare it to! Maybe I should try a middle grade next time?

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  2. DorthyM says

    Laura,

    I can’t wait to try this. But I must say, I just have a hard time picturing you buying vodka. But I think that’s because sometimes we tend to forget there are uses for stuff like that.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, it was a very weird experience!

    [Reply]

  3. says

    I have a hard time seeing myself buying vodka…

    Have you ever seen directions for using vegetable glycerine instead? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    No, I haven’t. I’ll have to look into it.

    [Reply]

  4. says

    I love my homemade vanilla, but it’s almost gone. Can I just add more vodka to my bottle or do I need to start over with new vanilla beans? I bought the beans I have about 6 months ago.

    Thanks!

    Mary Ellen

    [Reply]

  5. Natalie says

    oh! nevermind, just saw some on the other site you posted for small bottles:) thanks for the idea!!

    [Reply]

  6. Rebecca says

    Laura,

    Would you recommend using a Gallon jar? Or would a Gallon jug suffice? I already have a jug. Thanks!

    Rebecca in NJ

    [Reply]

  7. says

    I’ve made homemade vanilla three times now using three different vodka brands. Absolute, Smirnoff, and Kamchatka. I thought the Smirnoff was the best (and cheapest). The others were too strong and took much longer to make. In fact, the last one was taking so long, I knew I’d run out if I didn’t expedite the process so I added double the beans.

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  8. Kathleen says

    If one wants to have organic vanilla extract, from my pricing research it seems cheaper to buy it already made. Organic vanilla beans and organic alcohol are very expensive. Azure Standard sells a gallon of DOUBLE strength (2x) organic vanilla…,Madagascar variety (double means it’s twice as vanilla-y so you can use less and make your purchase go even farther!) for $97.05. While it’s not as satisfying as something you made yourself, it’s more wallet, health & Earth friendly.

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  9. Kris Mays says

    Laura,

    Was this cost effective, or is it just something special to make for others? Just wondering, as the price at Costco for vanilla is very good and I haven’t found one that can beat it. But I have no idea how much vodka costs. I know vanilla beans are expensive, though.

    I think this is a lovely gift idea.

    Kris in OR

    [Reply]

  10. Sheree says

    Is there a special grade of vanilla bean you should buy? Or can you use grade B or others? Just curious. Also, why do you have to put it in a Jar? Can’t you take some of the vodka out and use the vodka bottom instead? Thanks. I am going to make this!!!!

    [Reply]

    Sheree Reply:

    I meant vodka bottle not bottom…oops!!!

    [Reply]

    Abby H Reply:

    when I made it, I just used the bottle!

    [Reply]

  11. says

    What an interesting idea! I have never considered making my own vanilla. I’m still wondering how cost-effective this would be though because they charge SO much for vanilla beans where I’m from. I like the idea of giving it as a gift though, so I’m going to seriously consider this. Thanks for the idea!

    [Reply]

  12. says

    I make homemade vanilla and I agree – it is sooo easy. It is also very frugal. I have never considered giving it as a gift. I’ll have to try that this year!

    [Reply]

  13. Amy Borron says

    Laura,
    I am born and raised in Georgia, where alcohol is ONLY sold at liquor stores. My husband is from Missouri- where alcohol is EVERYWHERE! IN WALMART!!! I love your homemade vanilla recipe, but moreso, I love your horror in taking your CHILDREN to buy vodka!!! :) I went to MO for the first time and I had never seen anything like it, I was horrified. People were putting tequila in carts with babies sitting in the cart! I could not believe it! Love the homemade vodka recipe, and thought you might get a giggle knowing there are people out there who are as horrified at the idea of standing in line with their children to buy alcohol as you are! I am glad someone else understands! :)

    [Reply]

    Amy Borron Reply:

    homemade vanilla ** hahaha all this alcohol talk has gone to my head!

    [Reply]

    Danielle Reply:

    LOL… I thought only PA was like that. We can only be alcohol in the liquor store too!! luckily there’s a liquor store across the street from my job! I can run over when I need to buy a bottle of wine for dinner or company!

    Hmmm, never made homemade vanilla either. Interesting!

    Growing up I remember going to the liquor store w/my mom. lol And they “don’t touch that!”

    [Reply]

    Amy Borron Reply:

    Oh, here it is worse- under 21 cannot even go IN to the liquor store. And with parents who don’t drink, I’d never even really seen bottles of liquor until I got older.

    [Reply]

    Danielle Reply:

    It’s the same way here. I’m not sure if it was more relaxed 20+ yrs ago, or if you w/were parent its different.

    Anna Christensen Reply:

    Lol! I’m from MO too. When I needed to buy some Vodka for a mouthwash
    recipe, I headed to Walmart (of course!) They didn’t have any. A long
    search finally revealed that you can only buy it at the “Alchohol
    Beverage Control” store. I was shocked.

    I found the store, pulled into the wrong parking lot and bought some
    vodka (and wasn’t even carded!)Then I had the dubious pleasure of
    walking down the side of a very busy road with a baby in one arm and a
    brown bag in the other.

    [Reply]

  14. says

    Here’s another place to buy your vanilla beans from: http://www.saffron.com They charge about $30 including shipping for a POUND of chef-quality vanilla beans. Based on this price, I have calculated that a gallon of vanilla extract will cost roughly $90 (paying $30 per 1.75L of vodka) or 1.31 per oz of vanilla extract. That cost doesn’t include the 1/4lb of “leftover” beans which could be used to make vanilla sugar or a smaller bottle of extract (a 750 mL bottle of vodka would be just about the right size). At my local stores, you can usually find real vanilla extract for $2, $1.50 if you’re REALLY lucky!

    Another thing to think about- Alton Brown mentioned something about passing cheap vodka through a Brita filter to “refine” it for drinking- so I imagine that the taste would be improved if you do this with the cheap vodka. (it was on an episode of Good Eats dedicated to bloody marys I think!)

    [Reply]

    shoppingninja Reply:

    Ignore my backwards math- I accidentally divided wrong. You’d actually be looking at spending $90 for 118 oz of vanilla- or about 75¢ per oz. I knew that it was more cost effective to do it, but my concentration skills aren’t up to par lately.

    [Reply]

    einsmom Reply:

    In regards to the filtering of cheap vodka: seems there are
    questions out on the net about the safety of Brita filters for vodka…
    Having said that, if you do choose to filter, you need to pass the
    vodka through more than once….probably more like 3-5 times. So,
    what is your time worth? Perhaps it is more cost-effective to use a
    middle-grade/priced vodka. I do drink vodka on occasion, so I usually
    have some Stoli available. Also consider how much do you really need
    to make at one time……maybe a smaller 750ml bottle is the way to go.

    Also, for those of you in the military, or with friends in the military
    it may be cheaper for you to purchase your vodka from the PX.

    Hope this helps.

    [Reply]

  15. Jen says

    I started mine at the end of April. I knew you had the recipe somewhere, but every search with “vanilla” in it brought up tons of your posts. I could not figure out how to find the post. Then I remembered that the method used vodka, and I KNEW that very few posts would come up if I searched your site for “vodka”. It worked! So if you noticed in your stats, around mid to late April, several searches for “vodka”, that would be me. :) The homemade vanilla is smelling wonderful!

    Considering I just spent $22.13 for an 8 oz bottle of organic vanilla to get me through, this is a HUGE cost savings. However, the next time I make it I will probably try to find organic vodka. I didn’t think about it this time. I’ll have to research how they make vodka to decide if organic is important here. I am happy that this homemade vanilla won’t have any nasty colorings or flavorings though. Thanks for the recipe!

    [Reply]

  16. Jiller says

    I just love making homemade vanilla. At the beginning of February I made 2 gallons! I bought my bottles and will sell some at the farmers market in July. They made great gifts last year at Christmas. BTW- I contacted the gal who designs labels that you told us about and she will make me some labels.
    Laura;
    I sure enjoy your blog. YOu are a blessing!

    [Reply]

  17. Katie says

    Have you tried reusing the beans to make another batch? I saw somewhere that you can put the beans back I the jar with more vodka, it just take longer.

    [Reply]

  18. Janet says

    This might be a silly question – but if you are not planning on giving any of the first batch of vanilla away – and we are planning on keeping it and using it – do you happen to know what the shelf life is??? Just curious! Vanilla is very hard to find out here at a resonable price. One 4 oz jar is $10. to $15.!!! So we only use it on special occasions! Can’t wait to start putting it back into everything!!!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Oh, it will last practically forever!!! Years and years.

    [Reply]

  19. says

    I read most of the comments, but didn’t see anyone asking this, it sounds like people are having a hard time finding glass jars. some vodkas are already sold in a glass jar, so I’m wondering if anyone has just tried pouring a bit of the vodka out to leave room in the big vodka jar for adding beans, and then just add half the beans to the vodka jug (since the original recipe called for 2 full jars of vodka) This should work fine right? And then I won’t have to find a big gallon jar someplace. lol. Has anyone tried this? Oh and then I’d probably use a recycled pickle jar or something to put a few beans and the poured out vodka in as to not waste it. Sorry I just can’t think of any place to get a gallon sized glass jar, and I don’t think plastic would be the same. lol

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    If your vodka came in glass, then by all means use your glass vodka bottle!!! Great idea!

    [Reply]

    Christy Reply:

    You can buy the large gallon jars at Walmart. In housewares I think.
    Storage containers, pasta jars etc.

    [Reply]

  20. says

    sorry one more question, I read on one of your posts that this is a lot stronger than store bought vanilla, and that you would probably use half of what a recipe called for. Do you then let your gift recipients know to use half, or do they just use the same amount and have a richer flavor? I’m curious how people use it compared to store bought. Thanks for the post I can’t wait to try this!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I tell my recipients to use half the amount and let them know that their bottle will go very far!!

    [Reply]

  21. Carol Schott says

    I bet SAMS …. Costco type places have gallon jars of pickles… just what to do with all those pickles. LOL

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I find it tough to get the pickle smell out of jars too…which is another issue besides who’s gonna eat all those pickles?!

    [Reply]

  22. Bonnie says

    Hi Laura! Just ordered my beans and can’t wait to try this soon! Question– how did you strain the beans out when you put them into the gift jars? Coffee filter? Cheesecloth? Thanks so much :)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I have GOT to write a more thorough explanation about the final process…so sorry about that!

    Yes, use a coffee filter to strain out the beans!!

    [Reply]

    Rebecca Reply:

    Like a coffee filter on top of a funnel? Or attach it to the jar? Yes, write a post!

    [Reply]

  23. says

    You mentioned buying dark amber bottles to store the vanilla in.. the vanilla I buy at Costco comes in a clear plastic bottle. Does the light getting through effect the quality or shelf life?

    [Reply]

  24. Kathleen says

    Brieana-
    I use Costco vanilla as well. I store mine in a dark cool cupboard. If you will look at your bottle you’ll see a use by date. The bottle I’m currently using says to use by 2015, so I don’t think you have any worries.

    [Reply]

    Brieana Smith Reply:

    Thanks! Do you think I could bottle homemade vanilla in clear bottles? Mine is stored in a dark cupboard as well…

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    It really is best to bottle it in dark bottles if possible so you don’t compromise the quality of the vanilla.

    [Reply]

  25. Brigette says

    I am trying to use your code hhm2010 at Olive nation. I am finding that it takes off the 10% but does not give me free shipping. Has something changed that I did not read or is there a glitch? Thanks

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    There should still be free shipping as far as I know…did you add anything else to your cart besides vanilla beans? I think the free shipping only applies to the vanilla beans.

    [Reply]

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