My wife and I love vanilla. We didn't understand how incredible vanilla can be until we visited Mexico for the first time and tasted their pure and traditional vanillas. Since then we've been hooked on really good vanilla. We have inexpensive source for "traditional" vanilla, a type of vanilla that is made from the vanillan crystals that form when vanilla beans are fermented then dried in the sun. (Yes, there is an "n" on the end of the word). It has a very low alcohol content and can be used without baking off the alcohol. We use it in drinks, on ice cream, sweet rice, etc. We can get it locally for $7 per liter.
While researching vanilla extracts recently I learned how easy it is to make pure vanilla extract. I bought 1/4 lb of dried Madagascar vanilla beans from Amazon ($20) and a 750 ml bottle of decent quality but inexpensive 80 proof vodka ($10) from Total Wine and More. I chopped the beans into 1/2 inch pieces, poured about 2 ounces out of the bottle, then I put the chopped vanilla beans right in the bottle. I shook it up and took the first picture below.
The process involves shaking the bottle once daily and keeping it in a cabinet. The pure vanilla extract will be ready in a month to use in baking. Proponents say by 3 months you have an unbelievably complex and nectar-of-the-gods vanilla extract.
This morning was the 7th day of shaking. I opened the bottle to smell what I had and OMG it was the most amazing smelling vanilla! I can hardly wait three more weeks to try it in baking, probably something simple first like a sugar cookie where the vanilla can really shine.
The second picture is what it looked like after 7 days. I'll keep posting this as I take pictures and eventually use the vanilla.
Have a GREAT day!