What You Need:
1 bottle of 750ml Vodka (or any liquor 80+ proof)
12 vanilla beans
1) Slice each vanilla bean lengthwise along the entire side of the bean.
|You want to be able to see the gooey pods inside.|
2) Insert the beans into the vodka bottle. You may need to pour a little bit out to make room for the beans.
3) Seal the bottle and shake it up.
|The beginning of something great...|
5) Your vanilla may be ready to use after one month, but it is best after 2 or 3 months. You can store it indefinitely, adding more vodka to the beans when the liquid gets low (they will keep flavoring it for a long time).
|What it looks like two months later.|
I was able to buy 16 vanilla beans online for less than $11 (but if you buy a larger amount, they are cheaper than that). And I got the vodka at a friendly neighborhood liquor store next to Publix for $16. Not sure if that is the best price - I don't really shop around for vodka. ;) But doing the math, I still saved money:
A 750ml bottle of vodka will yield about 25 ounces of extract. Which means my pure vanilla is $1 per ounce. BUT if I keep adding vodka to the beans, I will get a lot more out of it and the cost per ounce will decrease.
I might have seen imitation vanilla on sale for $1 per ounce but the real stuff is at least $2-$5 depending on the sales/coupons you come across.
Plus it is a lot more fun to do it yourself. Give it a try!