I made homemade vanilla extract earlier today. I’m so excited and simply cannot wait to use it! I’ll have to though, because I have to let it age four weeks. For now, I’m trying to be content with shamelessly sniffing my vanilla-y smelling fingers. They smell really good after scraping the seeds out of all those vanilla beans. :)
edited to add:
I did a lot of research online before I made it. The problem with doing so much research is that almost every single website I visited told me something different, which ended up overwhelming me. The information varied on everything: the alcohol/vanilla bean ratio, whether to scrape the seeds out of the pod or not, and even how long to let it age. Some websites said four weeks, some said eight. Most sites said to use vodka, others said bourbon or rum would be okay, some said use a vodka and rum mix. I opted for the vodka/rum mix. Use a brand with at least 40% alcohol (80 proof).
I ended up buying sixteen vanilla beans at Amazon.com, the smallest bottles of rum and vodka at the liquor store, which turned out to be 750 ml each, and I decided to scrape the seeds from the pod. That seemed logical to me since the seeds are flavorful, too. I poured the alcohol out of the bottles to mix them. I split the beans between the two bottles, meaning eight vanilla beans each, scraped the seeds into the bottles, then added the empty pods. Then I poured the alcohol back into the bottles, since everything I read said it needed to be stored in glass bottles. At some point, I may buy some decorative bottles to store my vanilla extract in; if I decide to go on making it indefinitely. As for aging time, I am going to use up the bottle of vanilla extract I last bought from the store, and then start using the extract I made. It should take more than four weeks, and will probably take longer. I do not plan on straining my extract; something that some websites said to do.
One site I stumbled onto said to store whole vanilla beans in vodka, which plumps them. When making a recipe that calls for vanilla, pull a bean out of the vodka, cut one end off and squeeze the seeds into your batter or dough. Then, put the empty pod back into the vodka and eventually you’ll have vanilla extract to use, too. I admit I like this idea, and will probably try this, too.
I was very pleased with the vanilla beans I purchased at Amazon.com, and plan on purchasing them from the same seller again. Click here to purchase them at Amazon.
Any questions, please ask!