This post is part of an original TIDBITS recipe, first seen HERE on tidbits-cami.com.
Check out this post here for an updated Vanilla Extract recipe and FAQ.
*This post constitutes an original TIDBITS method for making vanilla extract. We reserve the rights to all content, images, method, and directions found in this post, and they cannot be duplicated, re-posted, or distributed in any way or form.
Vanilla Extract made in less than an hour in an electric pressure cooker! It’s fragrant, powerful, and more affordable than store bought. If you haven’t jumped on the pressure cooker train yet, I insist you do now!
Last Christmas I had this totally original idea of making vanilla extract to hand out as gifts to my family and friends. A quick internet search told me that my idea was extremely unoriginal and that if I thought I was gonna hand out good quality vanilla by starting the process two weeks before Christmas, I was dreaming. I had a second idea pop into my head of making vanilla extract in the pressure cooker. A second search told me this was in fact an original idea, which I thought meant that it couldn’t be done, so I dismissed it. A few months later I noticed a small liquor store in my hometown. I decided to pay it a visit, with my kids no less, and see if the owner could give me some insight on my idea.
To my surprise, the owner was a one legged gentleman in a wheelchair with scruffy facial hair that covered his face and a beard that went down to his chest. He greeted us with a cheerful “Hello” as my kids gawked, oh so inappropriately. Within a few minutes of talking to him, I realized, “I know this guy!” He had been one of my father’s best friends when they were young and they continued to speak often as adults about all things religion and philosophy. When I revealed to him who my dad was, his eyes twinkled and with a ginormous grin, he exclaimed, “You have got to be kidding me! What in the world is the daughter of THAT man doing in a liquor store with three young kids! I miss your dad more than I can even say.” You see, my dad passed away in an accidental explosion when I was young. My dad truly was a great man and to this day, people still talk about him and the amazing person that he was. I’m so proud to be his daughter.
I’ve since talked to my new friend from the liquor store many times as I tested pressure cooked vanilla extract with rum, bourbon, cheap vodka, expensive vodka, etc. He tries to talk to me about the great mysteries of the universe and I just smile and remind him that I’m not the genius my father was, I’m just trying to make a potent, less expensive bottle of vanilla extract!
In the process of testing my idea, I had two experiences that told me I was on to something good. First, was the day I pulled out a batch of vanilla from the pressure cooker and my kids came running into the room asking if I was making a cake. Second, was the day I took a bottle of extract to the liquor store, and with a sniff and a lick, my friend offered to buy back his own liquor!
My cupboard is now filled with Mason jars of vanilla extract and I’ve narrowed down my favorite versions to one made with the red label Smirnoff Vodka 80 proof (40% alcohol) and an alcohol free version using food grade vegetable glycerin.
I can’t really say which is my favorite, they each shine in their own way. The vanilla made with vodka is rich and potent right out of the pressure cooker. I prefer this version in things that are cooked so the alcohol can evaporate, but I’ve used small amounts in whipped cream and vanilla ice cream that were absolutely heavenly! Because I’ve been testing this concept for several months, I can report that the smell and taste just keep getting better with time, and yet your vanilla can still be enjoyed directly after making it. Because the vanilla is processed in a jar with a lid, very little alcohol dissipates, which means it will continue to extract the vanilla flavor from the bean over time, just like the more traditional method.
Now for the alcohol free, glycerin version, it’s golden, thick and evenly speckled throughout with vanilla seeds. I’ve held it up to the sun countless times and it’s beauty never gets old. I prefer this version in uncooked recipes like whipped cream, smoothies, frosting and of course homemade frozen yogurt and vanilla ice cream. Give it a shake before each use to get a nice dose of seeds in whatever you’re making for that instant pretty factor.
I love to store my vanilla in the mason jar with the beans left inside, and topped with this pour-able mason jar lid. These lids come in handy for so many things.
In regards to the beans, I prefer a Grade B Madagascar vanilla bean which I’ve ordered here from Amazon, here from Vitacost and here from Beanilla. I was very pleased with the quality of beans from both companies and will order from them again and again (as soon as I get through my 6 pints of vanilla extract!).
I now have more vanilla sitting in my cupboards than I will go through in a year, which means I’ve run out of excuses to drag my kids in for weekly visits to the liquor store to see our friend. However, my kids have grown to adore this amazing man and they insist on bringing him candy, muffins, and even birthday invitations. As for me, I’ve got a six month old jar of pressure cooked bourbon vanilla extract that will surely make his day!
Before you make it to the printable recipe, lets walk through the process.
Note: This process isn’t designed for canning vanilla. The lid and ring are simply in place to keep all the alcohol from dissipating.
Disclosure: To play it safe, I do NOT guarantee the outcome or results of this method of making vanilla extract. Follow the instructions at your own risk. I simply share this method that has had wonderful results for me. I have consulted with alcohol experts and three companies that make vanilla extract and even had it tested for bacteria – which came out negative. I have especially enjoyed the amazement and awe from our expert friends about this idea 😉
CAUTION!: This method is NOT intended to be used with a stove top pressure cooker. Only use in an electric pressure cooker with a FULL NATURAL RELEASE. Keep electric pressure cooker away from any open flame while making vanilla with alcohol.
UPDATE 12/12/16 Due to some new methods popping up for making vanilla extract in the pressure cooker, I want to tell you why I settled on the method I did. I tested alcohol percentages of all my batches of vanilla to make sure they were staying above 35% (starting from 40%). It was only once I added the barely tightened lid, that I was able to consistently maintain this percentage. This means your vanilla is safe to store at room temperature long term and vanilla flavor will continue to be extracted from the beans if you leave them in the jar, win win! On my batches made in an open jar or directly in the pot, I not only lost a lot of volume, I also ended up with alcohol percentages as low as 25% which I was not comfortable with. Last thing, if you’re vanilla smells strong of alcohol after you process it, let it sit for a week, swishing daily. The alcohol will mellow and the vanilla will be more present. Enjoy!
First things first, gather your ingredients, which include the vanilla beans and Vodka,
Then with some good kitchen shears, snip your beans in half so they will fit nicely inside a pint canning jar.
Then split them down the middle with your scissors, but not quite all the way. Leave the top of the bean intact.
Insert the beans inside the jar and fill it with Vodka or Glycerin until almost to the first rim markings or about an inch and a half of head space..
Place a rack or trivet on the bottom of the pressure cooker pot, and barely screw the lid onto the jars and insert into pressure cooker. You can comfortably add 3 pint jars to a 6 quart pressure cooker.
Next, simply follow the instructions in the recipe below and you are well on your way to your very own bottle of homemade vanilla extract.
And if you are looking for more recipe favorites from TIDBITS, check out our NEW COOKBOOK titled Master the Electric Pressure Cooker.Enjoy this handy source list for all the items you see pictured and which we use in our Vanilla making process. (These are my affiliate links, which help make it possible for me to share information with you for free. Thank you in advance for using them for your purchases).
- Vodka – try your local liquor stores.
- Food Grade Glycerin
- Mason Jars
- Pourable Mason Jar Lid
- Reusable Mason Jar Lids
- Small hand held glass bottles for beautiful Vanilla pictures and perfect for gift giving.
- Fagor Lux electric pressure cooker
- Instant Pot electric pressure cooker
- Vitacost Vanilla Beans
- Beanilla Vanilla Beans
- Kitchen Shears
- 6-10 Grade B Madagascar vanilla beans
- About 2 cups Smirnoff Vodka 80 proof (40% alcohol) or Food Grade Vegetable Glycerin
- Using a sharp pointed knife or kitchen shears, cut each bean in half and then split in half lengthwise leaving about an inch still connected. Place the vanilla beans in a pint size Mason jar and add vodka or glycerin, leaving 1 inch of head space. Top with a canning lid and ring and barely tighten.
- Add 1 cup of water to the pressure cooker pot and place trivet inside. Put the Mason jar on the trivet. Secure the lid and turn pressure release knob to a sealed position. Cook at high pressure for 30 minutes.
- When cooking is complete, use a natural release.
- Carefully remove the Mason jar, swirl it lightly to release more vanilla seeds from the pod, and place on a cooling rack overnight.
- Once cooled, top with a pourable lid and use in all your favorite recipes that call for vanilla extract.
- Tip: When vanilla extract is gone, let the beans air dry, then add to sugar for vanilla infused sugar! Smells and tastes heavenly!
- Tip: The pressure cooker will fit up to three jars at a time, so feel free to double or triple the recipe.