Grade A Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans
Vodka (or any 35%+ alcohol)
To make vanilla extract, plan to use 4 to 5 vanilla beans per cup (8 oz.) of alcohol, or 25 to 30 for a half-gallon. The more beans you use, the better your extract will be.
Slice the beans lengthwise, leaving the top inch intact. Place the beans in a jar or bottle and cover completely with vodka. Label with the name and date, and store in a cool, dark place for 2 to 4 months. Shake the jar from time to time, and strain the extract through cheesecloth or coffee filters before using. Store at room temperature indefinitely.
NOTE: If you plan to filter the extract in under 8 weeks, after slicing the beans lengthwise, cut them in half and scrape some of the seeds into the mixture to help speed up the extraction process.
The vanilla beans can be reused for up to one year; simply add more vodka and make sure that the beans are always completely submerged. After a year, remove the beans and allow them to air-dry for a couple days. Then, place them in an airtight container with two to three cups of sugar for a couple weeks or so, and enjoy using vanilla sugar in your baking.