Vanilla extract is one of those things that seems mysterious and magical, but is actually ridiculously simple to make at home. Order a pound of Grade B vanilla beans from an online seller and half your work is done. Split the beans, plunge them into booze and time does the rest. This recipe comes to us from Marisa McClellan, author of Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round.
1 (750 ml) bottle vodka 1 cup dark rum 24 vanilla beans
1. Open vodka bottle and remove approximately 1½ cup of liquid from the bottle and reserve it. Split all the vanilla beans and scrape the vanilla seeds from the beans.
2. Using a narrow funnel, push all the vanilla seeds into the bottle of vodka. Cap and shake to distribute. Remove the cap and put the scraped beans into the bottle. Top off the bottle with rum and cap once more.
3. Stash the bottle in a cool, dark place and let it infuse and mellow for 4 to 6 months. You know it's done when the vodka is dark, nearly syrupy and fragrant with the scent of vanilla.
4. To give as gifts, divide the extract between smaller jars or bottles (making sure to include at least one or two beans with every portion) and distribute. If it hasn't rested long enough for full infusion yet, attach a note with the date when it will be ready.