Ruth's Homemade Vanilla Extract

"I got this recipe from Ruth Baks, one of Jerusalem's finest cooks. This is how I make my vanilla and it's wonderful!"
photo by kiwidutch photo by kiwidutch
photo by kiwidutch
photo by kiwidutch photo by kiwidutch
Ready In:
1440hrs 5mins
1 liter




  • In Ruth's own words:

  • I use 50 grams of vanilla beans to 1 liter of vodka (45% alc/vol) to make mine.
  • Check the percentage of alc/vol printed on the bottle; there are many different strengths offered.
  • (By law, commercially sold pure vanilla extract must contain a minimum of 35% alcohol by volume).
  • Cut the vanilla beans into small pieces and drop into a bottle of vodka (pour a little vodka out first, as the vanilla beans will cause some displacement).
  • That's it!
  • Now you just have to wait for it to steep.
  • I'll tell you why I cut up the beans, rather than leaving them whole.
  • The power of the infusion comes from keeping the essential matter (in this case vanilla, which provides the 'essence') submerged in the liquid (in this case, vodka).
  • Vanilla beans are long and thin, and will stand up vertically in the bottle.
  • If you are making a small amount (less than a full bottle) the vodka level may not cover all the beans.
  • Even when using a full bottle of vodka, little by little this will be poured off as you use the extract, meaning the upper part of the (uncut) beans will quickly become exposed to the air.
  • The longer the beans steep totally submerged the stronger the flavor of the extract.
  • That is why I wrote that I pour off only a small amount at a time (enough to fill a 100 ml bottle- less than 4 ounces) and keep this on my spice shelf for regular use.
  • The remainder I leave in the vodka bottle to further infuse with flavor.
  • By cutting up the vanilla beans, the pieces will sink to the bottom of the bottle so even as I pour off the extract and the vodka level drops, the remainder continues to infuse as all of the vanilla bean pieces are submerged, and the extract continues to develop flavor.
  • Aside from this, cutting open the seed pods gives greater access (maximum contact) to the flavor cells.
  • Remember, you will need to filter the extract if the pods were cut--the seeds are very tiny (like ground poppy) so I recommend straining through something very fine, like coffee filter paper.
  • Okay, so now it has to steep for a couple of months.
  • It will get darker and darker over time; strain before using.
  • I strain and transfer a small amount into a small bottle for everyday use (allowing the original batch in the vodka bottle to further intensify in flavor).
  • Here's the fun part: the same vanilla beans may be reused to make more essence!
  • When the liter is all used up, I refill the vodka 50% of the original (using 500 cc or 1/2 liter of vodka) for the second infusion.
  • When that is used up I may go for a 3rd infusion, using 50% of the previous (this time 250 cc or 1/4 liter of vodka)-- as long as the color comes through the flavor will too.
  • You really cannot imagine how much flavor these beans contain!
  • I remember when I first read about doing a 2nd or 3rd infusion (using the same beans) I was skeptical, thinking that this was stretching things too far-- but when I tried it, I found that it really works!
  • As long as you see the color come through, the flavor will also be there.
  • As I explained, I cut the vodka in half for each successive infusion, compensating for depleted flavor by raising the concentration factor.
  • I have been making all my own vanilla extract for years using this method with excellent results.
  • Commercial vanilla extract is made from the lowest quality vanilla beans: rejects and broken pieces that cannot be sold in open market.
  • When making the extract yourself, however, you have control over the quality of the vanilla beans used.

Questions & Replies

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  1. LoveGoodFood
    I love this!!!!!!!!! I used one bottle of Grey Goose Vodka and 18 organic vanilla beans. I started using it after 2 months. After 3 months of steeping, it was awesome. I don't plan on taking the vanilla beans out. I'm just going to leave them in the bottle and use the vanilla as I need it. Thank you so much for sharing.
  2. Divine Nature
    I've been using and giving this extract for about 2 years now. Everyone loves it and it really makes a nice gift. I'm getting ready to buy new vanilla beans and vodka to get ready for this Christmas!
  3. sheeba.pillai
    Hi Mirj I loved this recipe !Thanx a million !You & Kittencal are my all time favourites on Recipezaar !I LOVED your witty comments on the Pineapple Upside down Cake !I am so glad i meet people like you & Kitten on Zaar !
  4. kiwidutch
    20 stars! If there was one singe recipe on Zaar that needs a photograph *where you could SMELL what you see, THIS recipe is IT!* I have only had my vanilla beans in the vodka for a little over 4 weeks and the aroma when you open the bottle is 400% vanilla! Wow, I am inpressed! I actually confess to sneaking a wee whiff once or twice a week .. just to check that I'm not dreaming and that it IS still THAT good.. It's not only good, so far, it just keeps getting better! Please see my rating system: 5 excellent stars for a super, mega, amazing recipe that's sooo easy you will wonder why no one ever told you about this years ago. I'm hooked on this one! Thanks Mirj!!!
    This truly is a treasure! Vanilla extract can be so expensive...but so can vanilla beans. But I found a source on the internet (through amazon - it was rated very well) and got a nice bundle of beans for about $15 - pretty good for a liter of extract! The extract steeped for two months and now smells delicious! I've been using it in all my baking. Thank you! This is so wonderful - I keep making it and using it. Will never buy store bought again.


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