I started a batch of homemade vanilla extract this weekend! I've wanted to do this for a while, ever since a friend of mine in Kuwait did it. We couldn't get vanilla extract off the local economy there because it had alcohol in it. Instead they had this gross substitute called vanillin. I used it once and it gave my chocolate chip cookies yellow spots. After that I either had family ship it to me or I could sometimes find it at the military base.
Anyways, I started a batch yesterday. Its really simple if you want to try it.
1) All you need is 2-3 vanilla beans per 1 cup quality vodka
2) Cut the vanilla beans lengthwise down the center (leaving about 1" still connected on the end)
3) Combine vodka and vanilla beans in airtight container (I just added the beans to the vodka bottle)
4) Store in cool dry place for 2 months, giving the bottle a shake every once in a while
I'd really recommend shopping around for vanilla beans. The off-brand ones above were about $4 per bean. I found some at Whole Foods that were $11 per bean.
I'll let you know how it turns out! Good luck if you try it yourself!