We all know cooking paleo means making a lot of things from scratch including baked goods, smoothies and ice cream that all need a touch of pure vanilla extract to make them perfect…
You’ve no doubt noticed buying vanilla at the grocery store can be expensive. And you definitely don’t want imitation vanilla extract which is made from a byproduct of wood pulp!
I’m always grabbing the vanilla to use in many of the recipes I create for Paleo Newbie, so…I decided to make my own!
I made my first batch of vanilla extract last year, but I waited until now to share this one with you because I think bottles of homemade vanilla would also make great gifts for your family and friends this upcoming holiday season.
Just imagine giving someone a beautiful basket of paleo pumpkin bread or orange cranberry muffins with a cute bottle of vanilla tucked inside. It makes an excellent hostess gift or a little something to give your kids’ teachers.
Here’s what I’ve learned about making vanilla extract…
The bean quality is more important than the alcohol you use to extract the vanilla flavor. Buy a good quality, vacuum-sealed package of beans. Here’s a link to the pack of 25 vanilla beans I bought through Amazon.
As for the alcohol, using vodka is great if you don’t want to add any other flavors to the vanilla. You can also try bourbon or rum for a more unique vanilla blend. I used a decent quality vodka, but don’t waste your money on the really good stuff. Buy what’s on sale, or use that bottle hanging around from your last holiday party. It will taste the same. Trust me. :)
You can get the bottles to extract your vanilla from almost anywhere, but I found these adorable 3.5 oz bottles on Amazon and they’re the perfect size for your pantry and to pass along to a friend. (They’re also great for herb-infused salad oils – a fun little side project that’s next on my list!)
The bean supplier says your vanilla extract should be ready to use after percolating for 8 weeks, but I like to push mine to 12 weeks or more to give it plenty of time to develop a more robust flavor. When you use the extract for baking, you want that awesome, intense vanilla flavor. Remember, there will be no added sugar in yours, so you might find it tastes just a little different than vanilla you’ve purchased in the past. When you’re using it for baking, you really don’t need the extra sugars. Not even for your paleo ice cream or smoothies.
Pictured up top is one of my few remaining bottles from last year (far left bottle) and a couple of the new ones I just started so you can see how the color changes.
Your vanilla should start off clear like the bottle on the far right, and be very dark when it’s done. If it’s not getting darker as it ages, you probably need more beans in your bottle.
I used three beans for each bottle, and split each lengthwise with a sharp knife. This helps the alcohol extract more flavor from each bean. And it looks really cool in the bottle. Just remember to give each bottle a little shake every couple of weeks, and store them in a cool, dark place.
It’s so easy you’ll wonder why it took you so long to do this! Plus you can share your own personal vanilla extract blend with your family and friends! It’s a win for everyone!
But don’t give all your vanilla bottles away – save some for the fun paleo and gluten-free holiday baking that will be coming soon!