( UPDATE 2/17/12: I now sell fresh, raw vanilla beans on my Etsy shop SimplyClaudine! http://www.etsy.com/shop/SimplyClaudine )
Two years ago, I learned how to make vanilla extract. I love it! Homemade vanilla is so much better (and far less expensive) than store-bought extract. And it's very, very simple. Here's a basic recipe and a link to a reputable vanilla bean store online with a special offer! Free shipping if you enter the promo code "mayspecial"...so hurry! If you buy the Tahitian package, you should have enough beans for one batch, but I just ordered the combo pack. One of my water recipes calls for a vanilla bean, so make sure you order plenty!
How to make vanilla extract:
Take a bottle of cheap-o vodka and pour it from the plastic container into 2 large quart size mason jars. Rinse off your vanilla beans. Split them open down the middle, leaving them attached at the tip. Drop 4-6 beans into each mason jar. Cover tightly with a clean lid and ring. Place somewhere dark and cool. I keep mine in a kitchen cabinet. Give the vanilla a shake once a week. It will take at least 4 months for the vodka to turn into usable extract. So if you're hoping to give these as gifts for the holidays, plan accordingly...start now! The longer it sits, the better.
When you're ready to use it, strain out the vanilla bits and bottle the vanilla. For a unique presentation, add half (or whatever amount) of a fresh vanilla bean to the container. Lovely and useful!
I'll post pics later.
One million thanks to my friend Tracy for reminding me of my love for vanilla extract and my need to blog about it.