How To Make Vanilla Extract

I'm always trying to think of creative gifts for my food loving friends and family that break the last-minute-bottle-of-wine-in-a-decorative-bag mold. So I was pretty thrilled when Food & Wine magazine ran a story last year on great handmade presents, which included adorable vials of homemade vanilla extract.

I honestly had no idea how easy, effort-wise, it was to make your own vanilla extract. It just takes time — about six weeks. The process is simple: take good quality vanilla beans, split them and soak them in a base spirit.

Start the process now and you'll have plenty to dole out as holiday gifts. A little jar also makes a great host gift.

The Food & Wine recipe called for 10 beans to 2 cups of alcohol. The internets seemed to think about three beans per cup would do the job. So use that as a minimum ratio, depending how much you want to spend.

I picked up Cook's vanilla beans at Cork Market — they're plump, moist and pungently fragrant with an almost tobacco aroma. (Cook's beans are also super popular among DC's top chefs.)

Vanilla Extract
makes about 4 cups

4 cups of vodka
12 or more vanilla beans, split lengthwise
1 32 ounce jar with a lid

Place the beans in the jar and pour the vodka over them to cover. Cover with the lid and store in a dark place for about six weeks, shaking from time to time to encourage the extraction.

For gifting, check the Container Store for small bottles. I got the cute tags at Anthropologie.