This post may contain affiliate links for products that I endorse and use. If you buy from one of the links, I earn a commission at no cost to you.
If you want to know how to make vanilla extract that lasts forever, you’re in the right place.
Perpetual vanilla extract. This is something that I’ve been doing for years now, but there are two reasons I’m sharing it right now.
First, it’s the holiday season. So if you like to bake, this is your time to shine. And baking means you’re probably using lots of vanilla extract in cookies, pies, and other holiday goodies.
The second reason I’m sharing this now is that it’s been a rough year. Or years maybe. And from everything I’m hearing and seeing, the holidays are going to be different this year. We’ve already changed some of our holiday traditions to include fewer gifts, because who needs the stress?
But for some, gift-giving is the highlight of the season. Perpetual vanilla extract makes a great gift for those that like to bake.
Okay, so what exactly is a perpetual vanilla extract? It’s a homemade vanilla extract that lasts forever. Like a sourdough starter, it requires “feeding” in a sense, in that you refill it as you use it, with both vanilla beans and liquor of your choice.
To start, you’ll need a clean jar or container. If you’re giving it as a gift, I recommend something pretty, but either way, you should pick something that is easy to pour out of. A mason jar is great for storage, but when you need a teaspoon of extract, it’s not gonna be your friend.
Once you have your container, you need vanilla beans and 80 proof liquor. Vodka is an easy choice, as it’s flavorless, but both bourbon and rum work well here. You do not need expensive liquor, so save the Grey Goose for a martini. I use rum in mine, and while I have some good aged rum, I use plain old Bacardi dark rum. You definitely want 80 proof liquor. So pick up a cheap bottle of vodka if you want, but make sure it’s at least 80 proof and not flavored.
You can start with as much or as little as you like, but a good start is 4 vanilla beans for every 8 ounces of liquor. I get my vanilla beans here.
You’ll start by splitting your vanilla beans, scraping the seeds, and putting all of it in your container. Pour the liquid over. Put the lid on and shake. Store in a cool, dark place. You’ll want to store it as long as possible before you use it, at least 8 weeks, but longer is better.
To keep it going, you’ll need to add both vanilla beans and liquor. I add any vanilla pods I use for other things — so if I scrape the seeds for creme brûlée, I put the pods in there. You don’t need to ever remove them (unless the jar is just so full of beans that you can’t get any more liquid in there) just add more liquor when it gets low, and vanilla beans as often as you use them.
If you’re giving this as a gift, simply print the instructions, tie a pretty ribbon around your jar and fill the starter. Then let your recipient keep it going.
Perpetual Vanilla Extract
For homemade vanilla extract that lasts forever, this perpetual vanilla is perfect for bakers, or anyone that wants to give the gift that literally keeps on giving.
Using a sharp knife, slice the vanilla beans down the center lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into a jar or container with an airtight lid.
Pour the liquor over top. Seal, shake, and store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.
Every so often (just whenever you feel like it; no need to be rigid about it) shake the jar.
Store it, sealed, for at least 8 weeks, but longer is better.
Use in any recipe you would use vanilla extract.
To refill, continue adding vanilla beans (even if you’ve used the seeds for something else; just add the pod) as you use them. When the bottle gets down 1/4 or 1/2 way, top it off with more liquor. Use the same type of liquor you started with every time you fill. No need to dump or remove any vanilla pods.