After a bit of googling and come consultation with my DIY partner in crime, I gathered my supplies and got to work.
We knew that if we were going to keep this adventure as frugal as possible, we wouldn't be able to spend the $2-$3 per vanilla bean at the store. Lisa looked around and found they were available on ebay for a great price! We also learned that while all vanilla beans aren't certified organic, the large majority of them are organic because most of the farmers are too poor to do it any other way.
Next, we needed vodka. I was hesitant to buy any old nasty cheap vodka, so I chose Svedka. The guy at the liquor store said it's a nice middle of the road vodka and should work great. It's best to use a glass bottle because plastic isn't 100% gas proof.
In my blog browsing, I found that the number of vanilla beans used varied greatly, from just a few beans to well over 50 beans. I decided to go with 35 for 1.75L of vodka.
Pour out some of the vodka to make room for the vanilla beans. Using a knife or kitchen shears, cut them almost all the way through and put them in the vodka bottle.
Pour as much of the vodka back in as you can without overflowing the bottle. Put the lid back on and label it the with the date. Give it a good shake and store your vodka/beans in a cool dark place, shaking it vigoursly once a week or so.
The length of time to let your vanilla beans marinate varied greatly in my research, from just a few weeks to 6 months. Just to be on the safe side, I went with 6 months.
My vanilla just happened to be ready just as I ran out of my last store bought bottle.
Using a strainer and some cheesecloth, strain out all the bits and chunks of vanilla bean.
I strained mine into a glass meansuring cup, making it easy to funnel into little glass jars for gift giving. Dark colored jars work best for this as light can age and damage your extract.
so I'll never run out again!
**UPDATE** With my most recent batch, in addition to just cutting the beans, I chopped and scraped some as well. I also ended up with an almost 9mo soak time (just because I was too lazy to strain and bottle) and the vanilla is FANTASTIC! **UPDATE**
In addition, DO NOT throw out your beans after you strain the vanilla. Simply pour in more vodka and set it to soak again!