Making your own vanilla extract couldn't be easier! All you need is a bottle of alcohol (vodka is most commonly used) and vanilla beans. The beans are scraped and chopped and added to the alcohol, then you shake. And wait. And shake a few days later. And wait a while longer. All told, it takes about 6 weeks to go from "bottle of alcohol with stuff floating in it" to "delicious vanilla extract ready for baking and candy making." That's why I'm telling you about this recipe now--so you can get your batches going for holiday gifting!
To package the extract, I bought some really cute 4-ounce amber bottles from the internet. I'm planning on making homemade labels to tell people exactly what's in it--and to brag that I made it myself! It could also be packaged in small glass jars instead.
If you're not looking to give vanilla extract as a gift this Christmas, it's still worth your time to make a bottle for yourself. The best part about making your own extract, in addition to the monetary savings, is that you'll pretty much end up with a perpetual source of vanilla extract. As you use it up, you can keep topping up the bottle with more alcohol. After awhile, you might want to add another vanilla bean in there, to boost the flavor. Lather, rinse, repeat! Your days of buying teensy overpriced bottles of extract from the supermarket are long gone, my friend. Now it's only giant bottles of high-quality, homemade vanilla extract for you!
Get the recipe: Vanilla Extract
Vanilla Extract Photo ©2012 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.