1. Buy vanilla beans
You can't make vanilla extract without vanilla beans. But don't worry, you don't need to pay top-dollar for Grade-A beans. Grade-B beans do the same job as Grade-A in terms of flavor for the purposes of extracts, they just aren't as pretty.
At Beanilla, you can get 10 Grade B Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans for just under $14.
2. Buy vodka
Vodka? Yep! The alcohol extracts the flavor from the beans. No need to go top-shelf either. Just make sure what you're buying is at least 70 Proof/35% Alcohol. If you want to get creative, bourbon, rum, and brandy work too!
Make a slice in your vanilla beans, length-wise, and plop them into your bottle. 8-10 beans work well for 1 handle of vodka. You can add them right in the handle itself or split everything into smaller bottles. Just make sure the beans are completely submerged in the liquid.
Shake your brewing extract once or twice a week.
It takes about 8 weeks for the alcohol to do it's job and extract all of the vanilla goodness from your beans. But don't despair--your patience will be well worth the wait!
6. Share the love!
Vanilla extract goes a long way (especially when you have a whole handle of it...). You could buy little bottles and divvy up the goods in small bottles. Wrap with a little bow of twine and you have a gift the Barefoot Contessa herself would love to receive.
Try these bottles from Amazon (6 for $6!). Just make sure that whatever vessel you buy, that is' labeled as "food grade."
SHARE with friends and family that love to bake!