"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vanilla Harvest and a How To

Last month, I harvested my first bottle of vanilla!  My post on vanilla farming several months ago generated quite an interest and a couple of people asked me how to do it, but I didn’t want to do one until I had confirmed that I could make delicious vanilla that worked well in cookies and pies!  And I’ve tried it, and its so good, and it doesn’t have any weird ingredients or sweeteners and I really enjoyed making it. Plus it was cheap.

Here is my stash! There are 10 0.5 liter bottles there.

blog 2

So I don’t think that there is any real science to this.  My mother just cuts up a bunch of vanilla beans, puts them in a bottle of vodka or tequila and let’s them sit for 6 weeks… and she is the BEST baker in the world.  That was what I originally decided to do, but I made the mistake of telling Nick about this, and he got very interested in the process and looked up more precise methods of making vanilla (like beans per ml of liquor). If you look it up online, people use all kinds of different methods, but this is just what I did and what Nick found online was the “correct” method (I doubt that there is a correct method).

How I do it:


  • 1 0.5 liter bottle of vodka (you can also use tequila)
  • 13 grade B vanilla beans/pods
  • a sharp, sharp knife

what you need

Step 1: Start 1/4 inch from the top and cut down the middle of the pod until you get to 1/4 inch from the bottom of the pod.  Keep them attached at the top and bottom.  If you accidentally cut it too much and its not attached at the top and bottom, its not a big deal.

vanilla bean cut

Step 2: Put the pod in the vodka bottle.

bean in bottle

Step 3: Repeat for all of the pods.


Step 4: Store in a dark cool place for 6 months.  Occasionally take it out and shake it. I do this a little too much – I’m like Gollum and his precious…

Step 5: So I just leave the pods in, and pour the vanilla directly out of the bottle into whatever measuring spoon I have.

That’s it!  That’s what I do.  Its so easy and very therapeutic.

Miscellaneous Facts:

  • I have a TON of vanilla beans.  More than I will ever be able to use.  They were all bought in two bunches off eBay and each cost under $25.  The second batch had much bigger beans and also contained a bunch of grade A beans.
  • Some people recommend scraping the little beans from the pod and not putting the whole pod/bean in.  That seems like a lot of work to me, and I want ALL of the little beans to go in.
  • Also, some people recommend removing the vanilla pod after the 6 month period.  This also seems like a lot of work to me, and leaving them in doesn’t harm the vanilla, I think it only gets more awesome over time!
  • Another thing, if you do remove the pods, some people recommend putting the used bean into your sugar.  I haven’t done this but I want to try it.  Here in Russia you cannot buy vanilla extract, only little packages of flavored vanilla sugar.  I haven’t tried baking with it yet.
  • All in all, you can make so much very inexpensively.
  • Random comment: my fingers smell so good after I make vanilla that I keep doing this creepy, intense Mary Katherine Gallagher thing where I smell ‘em! I smell ‘em!

So as you can see, there is no real right way to do it, just make sure you are happy with the smell and color of your vanilla before you use it, but I promise you that whatever you make will turn out.

Happy Farming!

1 comment:

  1. You are soooo your mother's daughter, I do all those things, I think I check my vanilla on an hourly basis, have been meaning to ask you can you wrap me up a bottle for Christmas I only have about half a bottle and I will go through that by Christmas. Love you so much see you in about 80 hours, woohoo as Kendall would say!


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