Making homemade vanilla extract might seem like overkill—why not just shell out the small ransom for a tiny bottle? But brewing your own is surprisingly simple, and yields customised, better-tasting results. Over at the culinary blog Chocolate and Zucchini, they have a detailed but simple guide to making your own extract. It's not more complicated than putting sliced vanilla beans into a jar with a high-proof alcohol like vodka or rum.
Using a sharp knife, slice the beans open lengthwise to expose the seeds. Tuck the beans in the jar and fill with liquor. Close the jar, shake it a few times, and place it in a cool, dark cabinet; you may have to whisper a few words of reassurance if the jar is, understandably, a little frightened.Let the jar rest in there for 8 weeks, shaking it again once or twice a week, or whenever you remember to. The mixture will get darker and darker over time.
The best part about the entire process is, so long as you throw a few more beans in occasionally and top off the alcohol as needed, you've got a perpetual source of rich and fresh vanilla extract. For a more extensive take on customising the brew and getting the best results, check out VanillaReview.com's picture-packed guide. Photo by Bill HR.