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Bottomless Vanilla Extract

Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Buffey Hargett
Hands-on time 15 mins
Total time 45 mins
Stand time 168 hrs
Yield Makes 3 (1/2-pt.) jars
Homemade extract is something every baker should have. It's more flavorful and generally less expensive than store-bought versions. Cooking speeds up the infusion, but you can omit the process by letting the mixture stand an extra week. Then use it in frostings and baked goods.


  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 3 cups bourbon or vodka

How to Make It

  1. Split 1 vanilla bean, and scrape seeds into a clean 1/2-pt. jar. If desired, cut bean in half crosswise. Place in jar. Repeat procedure with remaining beans and 2 (1/2-pt.) jars.

  2. Cook bourbon in a large saucepan over medium heat 5 minutes. (Do not cook longer than 5 minutes or it can overheat and ignite.) Pour 1 cup bourbon into each jar. Cool mixture to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

  3. Cover jars tightly, and let stand at room temperature 1 to 2 weeks before using, shaking jars once a day. (For a cleaner look, pour liquid through a fine wire-mesh strainer into clean bottles with tight-fitting lids; discard solids.) Store in a cool, dark place up to 1 year.

  4. Note: When cooking alcohol, be sure to use a large saucepan to contain vapors. Do not heat longer than 5 minutes--the vapors can ignite. The vodka version has the purest vanilla flavor. Though both extracts turn a rich brown after 1 week, the bourbon version is slightly darker.