Homemade Vanilla Extract: Day 70

It’s time for a progress report on the homemade vanilla extract. On October 8, I poured myself two big jars of booze, stuffed each one with 32 vanilla beans, and promised to report back in two months. (See Vanilla Extract: Day One for details about getting started.) The first jar was a quart of straight Stoli vodka, but then I listened in on a tip from Phoebe at Hillbilly Creations and decided to start the second batch in silver rum. So far, I like both very much, but I do think the silver rum expresses slightly greater depth of flavor. I’m sold on it.

The extract will continue to improve as it steeps but, at two months, I’m finding it to be both fragrant and giftable. I’m decanting it as needed into perfect 50ml (1.7 ounce) and 60ml (2 ounce) bottles from the Sunburst Bottle Company. The prices at Sunburst are reasonable and they’re nearby in Sacramento, so shipping was affordable and efficient. Great customer service, too. (They’re not giving me anything to say this!)

I’ve been pouring the finished extract through a fine mesh strainer into a drinking glass and then using a small funnel to fill the jars. Even so, I spill some every time. Rather than get frustrated, I’m seeing this as a benefit, because it means I am surrounded by a happy vanilla smell for hours. I snip a piece of bean to include in each jar, then I finish the bottle with these little hole-punched tags that I cut from some fancy paper I found in my stash of such things. (Do you collect papers and bits of twine and stuff like I do? I’m like a bird that way.)

By far the best thing about this project has been how delighted my friends have been to receive their bottles. If they don’t already know how it’s done, most have reacted with fascination and surprise at how easy it is, and said they want to do it, too. When it comes to gifting a DIY project, what’s better than that?

But we’re not done yet . . .

If you pop back over to Phoebe’s page, you’ll see that after making extract, she uses the boozy beans to make vanilla sugar. And after that, the same beans (now dried out) can be used to make vanilla powder. I’m going to experiment with both of these projects and will continue to report back.

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  • Reply Nicole December 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Nice job on the vanilla. Loved that bird nest page. I shared it on the ABO facebook page. I also thought the beach trash set was both sad and beautiful at the same time.

    • Reply Shae December 16, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      Agreed, Nicole. I spent a long time browsing the Sharon Beals’s Flickr photostream this morning.

  • Reply Polly December 16, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    The Sunburst Bottle Co. bottles look lovely. However, I’m a bit concerned about the notice at the bottom of their web pages:

    “Sunburst Bottle, LLC makes no warranty that these items are fit for any particular purpose. Customer assumes all risk that products purchased will be suitable for their intended use.”

    I haven’t found anything stating that their containers are food safe…. have you looked into this at all?

  • Reply Shae December 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Polly: I saw that, too. I think it’s pretty standard disclaimer language for wholesale suppliers, meant to avoid liability in case someone tries to do something with a bottle that it’s not intended to do — for example, heat processing. The Specialty Bottle Company, another popular supplier, provides a similar statement: You should always test your product with the container you have selected prior to use. We make no guarantee, warranty, or recommendation for any intended use and specifically caution that many products are not compatible with glass, plastic or metal. Email or call us to request a sample. If you had concerns about a particular bottle, it would be a good idea to call the company and ask about it. I have no qualms about using these bottles for an extract.

  • Reply Angela Watts December 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Those bottles look fabulous. We normally use either a straight plain vodka or a rum as well. Whatever we have on hand or happens to be on sale at the liquor store at the time. I tend to love the rum more myself…its darker and deeper in flavor and being a vanilla lover it works for me.

  • Reply Kokea December 19, 2011 at 1:01 am

    This presentation definitely going to help me for this coming Christmas. I love the photos and by the way, with the vanilla flavor ummm yummy.

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse December 19, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Yes, I have a few bird traits too. I haven’t heard of vanilla powder. I don’t know if I want to cook with it or put it on after my bath, perhaps both ; )

  • Reply Karen December 24, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Thanks for posting your details. I hope to try this next year!

  • Reply Anne January 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Dear Shae:
    Just ordered everything to start from my small business profits from the Christmas holiday. On the one website it suggests steeping for 6 months? What do you think? I don’t think I can be that patient….I’m with you on the two months? Thanks for sharing.


  • Reply Shae January 1, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I like it at two months, though I’m guessing six would be better — and that’s what I’m planning for next year. I’d say steep it for as long as you can stand! :-)

  • Reply Donna January 5, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Hi Neighbor,

    Definitely going to try this! Loved your article in the IJ…did you catch that they featured my blog too last Wednesday…Fairfax represents! Looking forward to following your yummy recipes..wish I had time to do them all!


    • Reply Shae January 23, 2012 at 9:21 am

      Hi Donna: Yes, I was excited to see your blog — and your lovely kitchen — featured in the IJ. Go, Fairfax!

  • Reply Amanda January 23, 2012 at 9:05 am

    How did it work our with the bean tips in the 4 oz jar? Any flavor extracted?

    • Reply Shae January 23, 2012 at 9:19 am

      Hi Amanda: Yes! I got quite a bit of vanilla flavor in the Grand Marnier, and it made a very nice addition to fig jams. Thanks for asking about that!

  • Reply Customer Successes | Sunburst Bottle Blog April 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    […] Hitchhiking to Heaven – Homemade Vanilla Extract […]

  • Reply Customer Successes | Sunburst Bottle June 19, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    […] Hitchhiking to Heaven – Homemade Vanilla Extract […]

  • Reply Alvaro Martinez March 17, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Hi Shae, I just made your vanilla recipe and now it is resting for a month. To keep the vanilla smelling fresh for a long time I used Infinity Jars. I had the same concern as Polly (commented above) and found that Infinity Jars are the best for food safety and preservation.

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