I was introduced to homemade vanilla extract about a year ago on heavenlyhomemakers.com. Making your own extract is quite possibly the easiest thing you make in your kitchen. I bought the vanilla beans from Frontier, a whole foods bulk foods distrubtor. Although you can also buy them from Olive Nation, amazon.com, or azurestandard.com. I like going with either Olive nation, azure starndard, and Frontier the most. The reason being, I know both of their companies have a high standard and I have always been satisfied with the beans I bought from them.
Vodka, rum, and bourbon are the most common alcohol's for vanilla extract making, but you could venture out and try another alcohol. My favorite by far is either the bourbon or the rum.
What you need for vanilla extract:
40 beans for 1/2 gallon batch, 80 beans for 1 gallon
You can use all rum, all vodka, or all bourbon, or you can do like I do and do 1/2 gallon jar of rum and another 1/2 gallong jar of bourbon (you put them in seperate glass jars, not mixed together). This way we get the yummy flavors of both! Cut your vanilla beans in half, place in your glass jar (did I mention glass is better for extracts). Once your jar is filled with your amazing aromatic vanilla beans pour your alcohol of choice over the beans. give it a shake and put in a dark place for six months. If I am out of vanilla I will sneak a little bit after a week, but it is definately a lot stronger left for the six months.
I have only made vanilla extract, but I fully intend to make mint extract, vanilla bean & mint extract, lemon extract, raspberry extra, and I plan on attempting other extracts as well!
Homemade extracts give your taste buds a happy dance. You don't have to use as much as you would with store bought extracts because homemade extracts are more potent. Making your own also gives you piece of mind of what is and is not in the food you are eatting!