When our family was struggling through chronic illness, I began preparing vanilla extract at home to have more control over the ingredients used. The elements are simple- quality vanilla beans and some sort of hard liquor such as vodka, bourbon, brandy, or rum. In an effort to avoid grain and pesticide residues, I use organic vodka made from potatoes. It is also worth noting that homemade vanilla extract makes a lovely Christmas gift.
7-8 organic vanilla beans
1-1 1/2 cups organic vodka
Slice each vanilla bean in half lengthwise and place in a 8 to 12 ounce bottle. Pour the liquor over the vanilla beans so that they are fully submerged. Secure a lid and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature away from light. Shake the bottle every week or two. Allow the vanilla to sit for at least 2 months, but the flavor deepens as time goes on. I have been known to leave mine sit for up to a year! You will definitely want to scrape the vanilla beans from the spent vanilla pods to use in recipes. Seeing little black specks from vanilla peeking out of a dessert or warm drink makes it extra special.