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Monday, November 14, 2011

Homemade Gluten Free Vanilla Extract

This weekend was a testament to my multi-tasking skills.

Still on our mission to de-clutter and finish all home improvement projects by December 31st we pushed on.

We spent lots more time cleaning up the never-ending falling leaves.

Then I tackled the junk storage room. Ugh.

I set out to get it cleaned and organized, donating a ton of stuff and freecycling the rest.

Freecycle is the best invention ever!

Although you damn well better be ready for an avalanche of emails once your listings go live.  I had 40+ emails in a matter of minutes.


A steady stream of vehicles have been coming up our driveway to pick up their new free stuff.

Leaf clean up continued.

And some leaf battles.

I also made homemade gluten free vanilla extract.

In my ever increasing quest to simplify I decided my massive consumption of this not very cheap flavoring required drastic measures.

It's really not hard, and not anything new.

You can find it on a ton of other blogs and foodie websites.

You need two things:  cheap Vodka and real Vanilla Beans.
  • The really important part that I've yet to see anyone else mention, is that if you have celiac or cannot have gluten you really must pay attention to the brand of Vodka you purchase!
There was a time when you could assume that vodka was made from potatoes, but now that we are in an ever cheapening age of less expensive products, the cheaper Vodkas are all now made from GRAIN.

So I headed to the liquor store with the jelly bean in tow (like any good parent) pulled out my reading glasses (I don't want to talk about it) and set to reading every single cheap-ass bottle of vodka from the bottom shelf up.

Even young-cutie liquor store guy came over to help me out and swore all vodkas were made from potatoes, in which I replied (inside of course) 'silly little boy, you have so much to learn'.

Needless to say, I finally wound up with Luksusowa (pronounced LOOK-SOO-SO-VAH) a lovely little Polish brand of Vodka. Not the cheapest, but moderately priced, and clearly made from potatoes.

[11/15: there are also vodkas made from other non-grains, like Hangar One and Ciroc, which are made from grapes. Thanks to Sean @ for that info!]

It was also on sale… I bought two (you never know when you might need vodka).

Homemade Gluten Free Vanilla Extract

What you need: 

  • Vodka, made from potatoes not grain
  • Vanilla Beans

The ratio:

  • 3 Vanilla Beans to every 1 cup of Vodka
Deciding that I need a lot of vanilla extract I opted for 6 beans and 2 cups of Vodka.

Split your beans lengthwise, you can leave some of the top together, like everyone indicates but really, it doesn't matter.

Stick them in a jar.

Pour Vodka over beans.

(yes, that is my 5 year old with a bottle of vodka. I did not let her drink it, although she did smell it.)

Submerge the beans.

When you get incredibly frustrated because they will not stay submerged, pluck them back out and chop them in half. It's not going to change the outcome one bit.

 Take that vanilla beans.

Store in a cool dark location, give a good shake about once per week. Honestly, just shake it up every once and a while when you remember.

Patiently wait at least 4, but up to 8 weeks before using.

As you remove the extract (shake before using), you can simply pour more vodka back in the jar to replenish your stash.

You can get about 3 good soakings out of your beans.


11/15 The troops are revolting… so let's appease everyone and add a few notes:
  • You can read a very lengthy and informative post 'here on' regarding the gluten free safety of distilled spirits, where they unquestionably explain grain-based spirits as being gluten free.
  • You can also use your own discretion with that analysis.
  • I have celiac disease and am incredibly sensitive to gluten. My experience with grain-based alcohols has been that of bloating, abdominal cramping and discomfort and some after effects I'd rather not discuss.
  • It's really your own call as a celiac whether you partake of grain-based spirits or not, I'm sure it is different for every person. It's like oatmeal… I know celiacs who can tolerate regular oatmeal and some (like me) that must have certified GF oats. 
  • But hey folks, if you are making homemade vanilla extract, and you are going to gift it for the holidays to a friend who has celiac, and you don't know for sure whether they can tolerate grain based spirits, are you going to take the gamble or err on the side of caution?
  • I'm just sayin'...

Not bad huh?

Easy & way cheaper for sure.

Yes I bought an entire pound of vanilla beans. But I will use them and quite honestly they will last me a very, very long time. Like until the end of the world.

One big bottle of real vanilla extract is going to set you back at least $6.

Here's two sites where you can order vanilla beans, there's more out there, search around:

I ordered from the first one and the beans aren't bad, a few beans are a little drier than they should be, but they are very fragrant. They were cheap for sure, I ordered the Chef quality beans at $19.95/lb, so I can't complain, I'll see how they flavor as I use them. I figured I'd start there and see how they were.

My vodka already has a wonderful vanilla smell.

I also ordered some smaller sizes of a few of the more pricey beans to test out the difference.

I'll definitely post the outcome when it gets here 4-8 weeks from now.

Patience [insert your name], patience.



ZenHarmony said...

Great post! Makes me want to run right out and get some vodka and vanilla beans right now. : ) I'm a sensitive celiac, too, and like you, would have to take the time and make sure there's no grain in it.

cmv... said...

With the ever increasing prices at the grocery store, it's the way to go. You can stretch a pound of beans a really long way and I seriously use a ton of vanilla. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only really sensitive celiac out there. :] thanks for reading & commenting!

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