this is key here, watch my lips and listen to the pre-recorded vocals: buying vanilla extract is a total waste of money. i'm not looking down on you for doing it, i'm just trying to show you the light.
sure, i've bought my fair share of vanilla extract, and i'll be honest, i usually go for the imitation shit because it's cheaper and i'm cheaper. i once saw a bottle of organic vanilla extract on the shelf of whole foods for $10.99 and literally gasped. with the price of vanilla extract so high AND maple syrup reaching cosmic outer space high prices (higher than sky-high, mind you) this baker had to figure something out, FAST.
enter scene: a pouch of vacuum sealed grade-A tahitian vanilla beans i bought for sister emma somewhere between two and four christmases ago, as part of a gourmet gift basket, the ingredients of which i assembled myself (we've been foodies for awhile, just not so publically recorded). some minimal internet research indicated the ease of which vanilla extract can be made at home. this recipe will last for months if you're an avid baker like myself, longer if you're less inclined to make all those sweet treats at home.
note: DO NOT buy your vanilla beans in a grocery store. they cost something like $8.99 for four beans and they're all dried out and shriveled. that's bull. buy them online and it will be worth it. i got twenty beans for $12.99 (granted, that was years ago but a quick e-bay search proved that we're still working it somewhere in that price range).
2 cups (or about 500 milliliters) vodka
5-7 vanilla beans
(it's not really an exact science as you're basically soaking some vanilla beans in some booze. but that's about the ratio you want to work with.)
split the beans down the center and then cut them in half or thirds, so as the liquid level drops (as you use it!) the beans stay submerged. place beans in a glass container with a tight-fitting or cork lid. some people like to use brown or green glass bottles (see: grolsch) to keep their extract safe from the sun, but i prefer a clear glass bottle so i can see my progress. just store that sucker in a dark place and it'll be fine. top your beans off with your booze, cap and stick it on a dark shelf in the back of your pantry (do you have a pantry? lucky.). you won't be using this 'nilla for about 6-8 weeks. every couple of days, pop in to say hi and give your bottle a little shake. i don't know if this is necessary but it makes me feel like i have a little pet, as sadly, we have no real pets (i am aware this statement is pathetic).
once your extract has a nice amber color it's ready to go! leave the beans in there so your extract will continue to develop in flavor as you use it. once it's about halfway used up, just top it off with vodka like you would your favorite cocktail and keep on bakin! THIS COULD POTENTIALLY LAST YEARS, so they say. once your extract no longer turns amber, it's time to replace the beanies.