The First Thing You Should Do With A New Bottle Of Vanilla Extract

Anise extract offers a deep, flavorful, licorice-like taste to baked goods. It also has numerous medicinal properties. To make anise extract at home, you will need vodka or rubbing alcohol, black tea bags or tea leaves, and anise seeds. The process requires steeping the tea in the vodka or rubbing alcohol for several weeks at room temperature. You’ll then strain all of the solids from the liquid using cheesecloth and pour into airtight bottles for storage in a dark place until needed.

The Process:

1. Pour warm or hot water into a pot and add 1-2 black tea bags or tea leaves to steep for about 10-15 minutes, then strain out the liquid and rinse with cold water. Discard the leaves.

2. In a large bowl, combine the brewed tea and vodka/rubbing alcohol until all solids are dissolved. Let it sit at room temperature for at least two weeks, then strain through cheesecloth to remove all of the solids, squeezing as hard as you can without leaving any lumps behind. Store in airtight bottles in a dark place until ready to use.

3. For every 1 ounce of extract, combine 1 tablespoon black tea and 2 tablespoons vodka or rubbing alcohol. Let stand for at least 2 hours, then strain through cheesecloth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one year. Use ½ ounce of extract per cup of liquid when adding it to your favorite recipes.

Note: If you find that the extracts turn a foul-smelling yellow after being made, try adding a little additional vodka or rubbing alcohol to the bowl and letting it sit overnight at room temperature before straining and bottling as usual.

I don’t know about you, but I always seem to be running out of vanilla extract. Maybe that’s because I’m basically constantly making chocolate chip cookies or blondies or cookie cakes or some treat that calls for a teaspoon of vanilla.

Stick with me while I do a little bit of math: There are six teaspoons in an ounce, which means 24 batches of cookies before my 4-ounce bottle runs out — usually less because I tend to use a GENEROUS teaspoon, and what if I decide to make something really vanilla-y like crème brûlée or vanilla ice cream?

If I were smarter, I’d probably go to Costco and pick up a 16-ounce bottle of Costco’s Pure Vanilla Extract and save the pricier stuff for special occasions. But I’m not there yet, which means I don’t just think I’m running out — I am running out, usually every two months, sometimes more often.

That’s why I like this idea for how to make my own vanilla extract. It requires only vodka, which can be bought in bulk, and some tea bags and anise seeds, which I generally have on hand anyway. And while the process takes some time — two weeks — it’s very low-maintenance: You don’t even need to remember to do anything with it. Keep a little container of it on your counter — it smells delicious after just a few days — and whenever you need vanilla extract, just grab the bottle and go.

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As for the taste of homemade vanilla extract? It’s superior to anything you can buy at the grocery store.

If you want to give this technique a try, here are some tips based on my own experience with making my own:

1. Use dark or clear glass bottles with tight-fitting lids. I’ve found that darker glass bottles help protect against the light, which can cause flavor loss in a short time.

2. Don’t use plastic bottles. While I haven’t had a problem with my plastic bottles, some folks have reported that a light bleach cycle sometimes helps to mitigate the off-flavors in these bottles. (And, yes, it can be dangerous for people with metal allergies to use metal bottles.)

3. I like to put my extract away in the refrigerator at the end of each process — just so it stays nice and cold — but this will vary from person to person based on how fresh you want the flavor of your extract to be. You can also store it in a cool, dark place on your counter — or in the back of your fridge, if you’re planning on making smaller batches.

4. Use a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth to strain the extract from the seeds and leaves after straining out the liquid. I don’t have a good reason for why this is important, but I feel like it adds another step to simplify this process because making vanilla extract doesn’t need to be overly complicated.

5. Store the extracted vanilla in a dark, airtight container to keep it fresh for at least a year before using it again. A clear bottle allows more light to come in contact with your extract, which can cause it to lose flavor. It’s also wise to keep your bottle in a dark place.

6. When it comes time to use the vanilla, you don’t always have to break out the measuring spoons and cups — just eyeball it. Said one commenter on the site that originally published this recipe for making homemade vanilla extract: “Vanilla extract is one of those things that you add until it tastes right. That being said, I usually only add 1 or 2 tablespoons per cup of liquid. If a recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of vanilla and you have a 4-ounce bottle of extract, use 2 tablespoons instead. There really is no theoretical reason for this, it just seems to work out that way.”

7. If you prefer a stronger vanilla flavor, use MORE vodka: For every ounce of extract you prepare, add 1-2 tablespoons of vodka (more if you want a stronger flavor). This is commonly used in baking breads and cakes to “pull” out of the dough or batter extra vanilla flavor and will also add a touch more sweetness to your finished product.

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8. You can also use the vanilla extract in recipes that call for vanilla beans instead of extract.

Recently, whenever I pick up a new bottle, I started doing this one tiny, brilliant thing that has helped me banish unwanted smells (in particular, the wet cat food that my tabby Ramona likes to eat sporadically) from my refrigerator: I moisten a cotton ball with a bit of extract and put it in a small bowl or jar in the back of the fridge.

Neutralize Refrigerator Odors with Vanilla Extract

You’ve probably heard of using baking soda in your fridge to absorb any foul odors, and we think that sort of works. Just in case, I do keep a box of baking soda in my refrigerator. But what if you don’t just want your fridge to not smell bad? What if you want it to smell ever-so-slightly good? Vanilla is the answer.

You’ll need vanilla, some cotton balls, and a small container or dish. Moisten the cotton ball (or two) with a few drops of vanilla, drop it in a dish, and put the whole thing on a shelf in your fridge. The scent is subtle (not at all like putting a Yankee candle in your refrigerator, in case that’s what you were worrying about) and, if you go through vanilla with the same frequency I do, it’ll be time to swap out your deodorizer right around the time you resupply.

And if you’re worried about the cost of the vanilla, here’s the math: Most recipes call for 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. A 4-ounce bottle of vanilla extract runs about $5. Consider that you can make an 8-ounce bottle for about $4 (this is what I do). You just saved $1.25 — plus, you’re not dealing with a bunch of funnel-wielding 2-year-olds at your local grocery store.

You could also use any other kind of extract — like lemon or almond — but since you most likely have vanilla on hand already, why not go for that?

Do you refrigerate extracts?

“The “original” recipe for vanilla extract was made by roasting the entire pod of vanilla beans in a pan of alcohol, then straining the bean out to create an “extract”. This is no longer common practice, although the method is still used today.”

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“Vanilla Liqueur — Vanilla extract can either be alcoholic or contain artificial vanilla flavoring so I would recommend you make your own. The good news is that it takes little effort and there are lots of ways to do it. There are many commercially available alcohols that can be used and if you want to use a flavored vodka you can use cinnamon for example.

Does artificial vanilla extract need to be refrigerated?

Vanilla extract can get a bit funky at room temperature, but you don’t necessarily have to refrigerate it. If you’ll be using it within a month or so, I would just leave it in the pantry, away from deep freezes and ovens.”

What does vanilla extract have to do with curing alcohol?

Everything and nothing. Extract of vanilla is one of the possible ingredients that can be used in making an extract of fruit or vegetables (beer or wine). The fact that it’s used in making fruit and berry-based liqueurs is something that got me interested three years ago with this aspect of winemaking.

How do you store vanilla?

Store at room temperature in a cool, dry place. Do not refrigerate or freeze. Once the extract is ready it can be stored in a cool dark place in a bottle that allows light to pass through. Light limits the storage life of vanilla extract.

How long will homemade vanilla extract keep?

Vanilla extract may be kept indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry place, away from heat and light. It is not necessary to refrigerate or even seal the container used to store vanilla extract as long as it remains tightly closed and is not exposed to extreme temperatures.

Does vanilla extract ever go bad?

Unopened vanilla extract will keep indefinitely if stored in a cool, dark place. Once it has been opened, it will last indefinitely if kept tightly closed and away from heat and light.

Can you make vanilla extract with vodka?

Vanilla can be made using rum, brandy, scotch or other spirits but the most common alcohol used is vodka. However, the original vanilla flavor comes from making alcohol infusions using the entire pod of a vanilla bean. The imbiber eats the skin which contains some of the flavors but more importantly allows alcohol to enter into the beans and extract its essence. When you use something like vodka this method doesn’t work as well because only tiny amounts of spirits are able to penetrate into beans.

Vanilla extract is a product made from a solution of vanilla beans in an alcohol-based liquid.

The process of making the extract is known as infusion because the flavor of the bean steeps in the solvent. The extract can be made using either whole beans or vanilla bean pods. Vanilla extract is used to flavor foods and beverages, including ice cream, custard, pudding, and whipped cream; it also can be used for baking, shakes, and dips. Although vanilla has medicinal properties that were recognized by ancient civilizations, it was not until 1837 that chemist Charles François Antoine Morren discovered why it had such nice properties.

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