How To Replenish Homemade Vanilla Extract For An Endless Reserve

High-quality vanilla extract is the baker's most valuable weapon — and one of the most expensive to keep stocked. Fortunately, there is a cheap and easy way to keep this most prized ingredient constantly on hand, and it begins with making your own homemade vanilla extract

A remarkably easy thing to accomplish, all you need for your at-home, small-batch extract are vanilla beans, alcohol, and time. During a luxurious one-month soak, the high-proof spirits pull out the rich vanilla flavor from the pods and create a shelf-stable extract. It's more cost-effective and pretty low-effort as far as baking hacks go. 

But the real game changer to making your vanilla extract is that you can stretch out this initial batch indefinitely. How? By continually topping it off with a steady supply of fresh booze and vanilla beans. Depending on how much you need to replenish, you may not need to wait long to use the fresh supply either. So how do you go about making your bottomless bottle of vanilla extract? 

Top off your vanilla extract with alcohol and vanilla beans for a never-ending supply

First things first, make your extract base. While the vanilla beans are fairly straightforward, you have some options with the alcohol used. Vodka is often the spirit of choice because of its neutral palate, but aromatic bourbon, brandy, mezcal, or rum can all be used to add complexity. The container doesn't have to be anything fancy either; a leftover jam jar will suffice, just make sure it's glass and scrupulously clean. 

As for ratios, a good guideline is to add one vanilla bean for every 2 to 3 ounces of alcohol. So for one 8-ounce bottle of homemade vanilla, add three to four vanilla beans to the mix, and let it sit in a cool dry place for one month. During its soaking, give your extract a daily shake to ensure an even distribution of infusion. At the conclusion of the month, you can take out your vanilla beans and get to using your extract. 

Use that initial bean-to-booze ratio to help you replenish your extract. As you deplete it by ¼ a cup or 2 ounces, you can top it off with an equal bit of booze and an extra vanilla bean to keep your extract level up. You may need to wait a week for the flavors to marinate again if you're adding more than half of the mixture back in, but if it's as little as ⅓ of a bottle, you can use your replenished mix immediately.