Homemade vanilla extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract: A Collaborative Holiday Gift

Posted by L. Woodrow Ross on November 20, 2020

Thanksgiving traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season with a bang. However, since many of us will be avoiding large crowds, big spending, and shopping centers this year, I expect the old tradition of homemade holiday gifts will make a comeback.

Recently, my wife was inspired by a project that one of our daughters had pursued: mastering the making of vanilla extract from scratch.

Anyone who bakes is aware of the high cost of good vanilla extract (especially as prices have risen in the last year). In years past, I traveled frequently to central Mexico and would purchase large quantities of excellent vanilla extract, but after retirement (and now with COVID travel restraints), this resource is not available.

The unique thing about homemade vanilla extract is it's a collaborative and hands-on gift.

Meaning, you as the gift-giver start the process of making it, then pass it on to the recipient to complete the infusion; which takes six months for maximum flavor.

It's the perfect homemade gift for culinary connoisseurs, homesteaders, DIY enthusiasts, foodies, bakers, or even homeschooling families who may enjoy the process as part of their science of home economics curriculum.

Here is the recipe that my wife Margaret and daughter Andrea have used with great success, that's sure to make a welcomed homemade holiday gift.

DIY vanilla extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract


  • 10 Madasgascar vanilla beans (available on Amazon)
  • 16 ounces of vodka


  1. Select a glass container large enough to contain the materials listed above. It should have an airtight, sealable top.
  2. Place vanilla beans into glass container, pour vodka into container and seal. Beans may be broken in half if too long for container. Assure that beans are completely submerged. Store container in an area away from temperature and light extremes.
  3. Two times a week, shake container gently to disperse the dissolved essence from the beans into the solution.
  4. At the end of 6 months, strain the contents through a fine mesh strainer.
  5. Store vanilla extract in small bottles for kitchen use. Bottles and labels are available to enhance the appearance and ease of use.
  6. Beans may be used once more to produce another batch of extract. After that, it is recommended that they be discarded, as they would not produce the desired fullness of flavor.

Enjoy the rich, vanilla flavor that this finished product imparts to baked goods and other favorite dishes that are enhanced with vanilla.

Happy holidays!

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L. Woodrow Ross

L. Woodrow Ross lives in upstate South Carolina with his lovely wife Margaret. He has written more than 500 newspaper articles, contributed to Rethink Rural, Carolina Sportsman, Primitive Archer, Palmetto Gills and Game, Rivers and Feathers and other online resources. In addition, he has 41 books on Amazon Kindle: "how-to" outdoor books, historical novels, suspense novels, a suspense novella, an Alaska travel guide, Greater Yellowstone destination guide and more. A 42nd book is in work and focuses on the “Dark Corner of South Carolina and the rampant, illegal “Moonshining” and “Bootlegging” activity of the nineteenth century. Ross is also a primitive/ survival skills instructor enjoying most things involving outdoor sports.

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