Store-bought vanilla extract is expensive and often has preservatives, but it’s easy to make your own and much cheaper too. I’ve been making my own vanilla extract for over a year now, and I use it all the time. I add it to the homemade soymilk and granola, and I’ve been really happy with it. I also love the satisfaction of knowing I made it myself.
There are lots of different varieties of vanilla bean, and they all have different qualities. But I buy what I can find, and more importantly what I can afford. They can be pricey! I usually get two beans for $7 which sounds like a lot, but I get about 2 cups of extract out of them, so it’s still cheaper than store-bought vanilla. Also, mine come in a plastic baggie. If you can find them in a glass tube, they’ll be fresher. If the beans have been in the baggie awhile, they can lose potency and get too dry.
Now for the easy part – making the extract. Simply take the beans and split them with a sharp knife the long way. I usually chop the bean in half as well. Drop both beans in a clean glass 24 oz. jar. Add 1 cup vodka and seal the jar. It’s best to use a jar with a gasket like a Ball jar because you have to shake the mixture daily. Without the rubber gasket, the liquid can leak or start to evaporate. I store mine in the cupboard (well out of reach of children and curious husbands who may find vanilla vodka appealing), and I give it a swirl every day. Wait for at least 6 weeks before using. When the contents start to get low, you can top it off with more vodka. (I throw the beans out after they’ve produced about 2 cups of extract.) Use the extract just the same as store-bought when cooking.