I made homemade vanilla extract as gifts for a few people this year. It’s incredibly easy and kind of fun, and it seems to me like it would be a much better extract than store bought. It’s literally just vanilla beans and vodka, whereas bought extract has sugar and water added unnecessarily. I bought some good quality vanilla beans from The Organic Vanilla Bean Company (it’s cheaper to buy good beans here in bulk than small cruddy ones from the grocery store). I got the bottles for $3.99 at The Container Store.

I used tutorials I found here on Simply Recipes (via Sew, Mama, Sew) and here from VanillaReview (via Angry Chicken). I split the beans with a knife, cut them into pieces that would fit in the bottle, and put 4 beans total in each bottle. Then I added a cup of cheap vodka. We used Smirnoff; when I asked Adam (the family bartender) what vodka to use, all he said was, “Not the Finlandia!”

Anyway, the stuff starts out clear, but as you shake it over time it turns brown. From the tutorials I gathered this needs to sit for 1 to 2 months before it’s really ready to use. Then you can top it off with vodka as you run out, and it should last for decades. I’ll check back with the recipients in 2018 to see if that’s true.

I also threw some of the leftover beans (split open) into jars of sugar and gave those out, too. I kept one for myself because I love vanilla sugar.