Traditional vanilla extract is done through a cold infusion. Basically, you take some vanilla beans and place them in vodka (or your favorite alcohol) and wait. And wait! It can take up to 6 months for your infusion to produce vanilla extract.
There is a faster way!
It’s called hot processed vanilla extract and it’s a perfect method for using the Instant Pot. Using this method your vanilla can be ready in 2 weeks, not 6 months. It makes a perfect relatively inexpensive homemade gift.
I say relatively, because vanilla beans can get expensive. However, they can often be purchased in bulk and you don’t have to use grade A beans to make extract. You can use grade B beans. Also, if you think ahead and hold on to some bottles that you might otherwise throw away, you’ll be bringing the cost down even more. I used some leftover kombucha bottles to store some of my extract. Then I found these nifty silicone bottle caps and had a really inexpensive container. Of course, if you’re making a lot of extract you can purchase bigger bottles that are still relatively inexpensive.
To be even more frugal you can use cheap vodka or bourbon to make your extract. You could also use a mid-tier alcohol, but you definitely don’t need to use the expensive stuff.
Difference Between Cold Infused and Hot Processed Vanilla
Foodies and connoisseurs might argue about the taste. Some prefer cold infused and others actually prefer hot processed, arguing that it brings the vanilla flavor out even more. Since most of us use our vanilla extract in other recipes, you’ll probably be satisfied with the taste you get using either method.
There are a couple of differences, though...
Most of the time vanilla extract is made with 80 proof alcohol, in other words spirits that are 40% alcohol. In a cold infusion none of the alcohol escapes. You’ll wind up with a product that is 40 alcohol. When you use the hot process method some alcohol will cook off. Technically, according to the FDA, pure vanilla extract can’t fall below 35% alcohol. So you might need to call your extract vanilla flavoring or something like that.
But the bigger issue is that if the alcohol does fall below 35% then the shelf-life comes into question. The shelf-life of extract made this way may not indefinite, like pure vanilla extract.
So in order to prevent as much of the alcohol from cooking off or dissipating, I recommend using Mason jars. I like to use half pint jars, but you can use the 4 oz jars too (just cut the recipe in half). There will still be some alcohol that escapes but it will be minimal. It should still be above 35% alcohol. You could use a special hydrometer (called a proofing hydrometer, which is different than a brewing hydrometer) to determine the final alcohol content, but that's really not necessary. As long as you start with an 80 proof alcohol (40% alcohol by volume), and your Instant Pot has a good seal, your extract should stay above 35%.
This method is for electric pressure cookers only. DO NOT attempt to use this method with a stovetop pressure cooker!
Instant Pot Vanilla Extract
- 4 half pint Mason jars
- 16 vanilla beans
- 4 cup vodka or bourbon (16oz, 80 proof)
Cut vanilla beans in half, then with a sharp knife split them down the middle.
With a dull knife scrape out the seeds, then place seeds and bean pod in your jars.
Place a total of 4 beans in each jar.
Fill the Mason jars with vodka or bourbon. Place lids and rings on your jars.
Place 1 ½ cup of water in your Instant Pot. Then place the steaming rack in. Put your jars on top of the steaming rack. Close the lid on the Instant Pot. Cook on manual for 60 minutes. Let the Instant Pot release all the pressure naturally after cooking.
A Note About Canning
It is not safe to pressure can or water bath can in the Instant Pot. The Mason jars we used sealed because of the heat, but this is not a safe canning method. The only reason this method is safe for extract is because we are using alcohol and bacteria cannot survive in alcohol. This is not a safe canning method for any other kind of food.
You can leave the vanilla in the sealed Mason jars. However, you’ll want to store them in a dark place so that light will not deteriorate your extract. Unsealing the Mason jar will not cause the vanilla extract to spoil again because of the alcohol. The best way to store vanilla extract is in an opaque (like an amber or dark blue bottle) airtight glass container.
If you'd like to see a live demonstration on making this vanilla extract, take a look at this video I did for the Self Reliant Living Show:
With that in mind, I designed these labels for you to put on your homemade vanilla bottles. They are perfect for gift giving or just keeping track of your own homemade goodies.
The first set is meant to go on smaller bottles (the bigger one on the front of the bottle and the smaller one goes on the back). Then there is a bigger label for bigger bottles.