Also known as Perpetual Vanilla, this is a way to add depth of flavor to all your baking and makes a great gift for your baking friends.
Are you particular about the quality of your vanilla? Does the idea of imitation vanilla make you shudder? Try making your own. The smell alone is worth the effort.
Homemade or Perpetual Vanilla
5-8 vanilla beans
2-4 cups preferred alcohol: vodka, bourbon, Everclear
Slit vanilla beans (I cut mine in half, it is important that the alcohol cover the vanilla beans) and place in a quart jar. Pour alcohol over the beans. Let sit in a dark cupboard or pantry for 8 to 12 weeks, shaking occasionally.
Strain and bottle. Retain the old beans, add new beans prepared in the same manner, and add more alcohol.
Vanilla beans can be expensive, you can try buying them online at sources such as http://olivenation.com.
Some people use bourbon because they feel it enhances the flavor. Vodka is more neutral. I prefer to use alcohol that is flavorless and colorless, such as Everclear, at 95% alcohol content. Not available everywhere, I obtained mine in Wisconsin.