Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Extract

Several vanilla extract recipes are floating around the internet, and I thought I’d try my hand at making some. I used four different liquors (vodka, bourbon, brandy, and rum) to compare the differences in flavor. The cheaper brands of liquor seem to work fine for making homemade extracts. Vanilla beans at our local stores were way too expensive, so I checked into ordering vanilla beans online. After comparing prices and reading reviews of different places, I found an online supplier to use.

Four jars with lids
1 cup of vodka
1 cup of bourbon
1 cup of brandy
1 cup of spiced rum
12 vanilla beans
Kitchen shears

Supplies for homemade vanilla extracts.

Supplies for homemade vanilla extracts.

1. Split beans lengthwise, leaving the ends attached.
2. Place the split beans in the jars.
3. Add booze of choice (vodka, bourbon, brandy, or rum) to the jars. I used a funnel for this part, but it’s not really necessary.
4. Label jars with liquor choice used, especially if doing multiple ones like I did.
5. Store jars in a cool, dry place. Remember to occasionally shake the jars.
6. Wait. The vanilla extracts should be ready in two months. I waited longer (about 4 months) before using the homemade extracts.

Jars of homemade vanilla extracts.

When the vanilla extract was ready, it was time to taste the differences. I made basic sugar cookies, using more vanilla than I normally would. I previously made cookies using the recommended amount of vanilla, but we couldn’t taste much of a difference between the extract recipes. So, I doubled the vanilla extract the second time I made the basic sugar cookies. I also made a batch of cookies using store brand pure vanilla extract – thought it would be good to compare the homemade versions to store bought vanilla extract.

I used the Sparkling Sugar Cookies recipe from Southern Living Cooking for Christmas 2012. I halved the recipe since I was making multiple batches. So, I made about a dozen cookies per batch instead of the 2 dozen that this recipe will make.

Basic Sugar Cookie Recipe

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy.
2. Slowly add sugar, continue beating.
3. Add egg and vanilla, mix until well blended.
4. Combine flour and salt. Slowly add to butter mixture.
5. Cover and chill mixture until it is firm (about an hour).
6. Preheat oven to 350°F.
7. This cookie dough can be rolled and cut into shapes, but I didn’t get that fancy. I placed spoonful sizes of dough on a parchment lined baking sheet.
8. Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
9. Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute and then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling. Enjoy!

After baking cookies (5 small batches), Michael and I did a taste test.

Basic sugar cookies made using different vanilla extracts.

Michael liked the cookies made with store brand extract and spiced rum extract best.
I liked the cookies made with bourbon extract and spiced rum extract best.
I thought the cookies made with vodka extract were closest to the store brand extract.

Turns out the homemade vanilla extracts were all good, and I’ll be using them in future recipes.


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