Ina Garten's Homemade Vanilla Extract Is 37 Years Old

Nothing, and we mean nothing, smells better than fresh, velvety vanilla. The sweet, nostalgic aroma is sure to transport you right back to baking cookies in grandma's kitchen, or maybe snagging a bite of cookie dough before they hit the oven. Although we can all agree on the necessity of vanilla in many baked goods, there's still the question of whether pure vanilla is worth the money compared to imitation vanilla. 

Artificial vanilla extract is more saccharine, almost cloyingly so, and has a less flavorful, chemical aftertaste. Pure vanilla is super rich, but that translates to its higher price at the grocery store. So, what's the best way to go for flavorful bakes without breaking the bank?

Ina Garten has her own solution to the debate: Make pure vanilla extract at home for the best quality and cost-effectiveness. Of course, the acclaimed chef should know — she's been using the same homemade vanilla extract for 37 years!

Flavorful, long-lasting vanilla extract

Just like Ina Garten, you can have your own homemade vanilla extract without much hassle. While imitation vanilla extract might be more convenient, the serious baker should keep fresh vanilla on hand. The upfront cost of pure vanilla extract is more expensive because of the specific growing conditions for vanilla bean orchids, so it's not the first choice for baking on a budget. Making your own vanilla extract from scratch may sound daunting, but the quality and longevity make it well worth the investment, and it's shockingly easy. 

Ina Garten started her own homemade vanilla extract almost forty years ago with only two ingredients. All you need for a decadent, decades-lasting extract is vanilla beans and inexpensive vodka. Ina Garten's recipe recommends placing 12 vanilla beans in a jar and filling it with vodka to fully submerge the beans. Bathing the beans in alcohol literally extracts flavor from vanilla seeds to infuse the liquid with an intense, concentrated taste.

You can let your homemade vanilla extract sit at room temperature for four to six months, or if you're in a hurry for fresh flavor, a sous-vide water bath could expedite the steeping process. Ina Garten even adds her aged vanilla extract and vanilla bean pod seeds to her desserts for a truly rich flavor. Start your homemade vanilla extract today, and in 37 years, your baking might taste as good as Ina Garten's.