I like to bake so I use a lot of vanilla extract. My favorite extract is sold by Penzeys Spices and they offer both single and double strength as well as vanilla beans and sugar. However, I found that I could make a decent and economical vanilla extract myself.
As usual, the quality of the ingredients determines the quality of the end result – in this case extract. I use Madagascar beans and good quality rum such as Appleton, a smooth and rich Jamaican brand I discovered years ago. I find that the rum flavor works well with the vanilla naturally – they sort of melt right into each other. And the alcohol burns right out so don’t worry about your cookies and baked goods containing alcohol. I think some people use vodka and having tried that I think the rum is better. However, do not use spiced rum unless you want a strong, spicy rum flavor.
I use a smallish glass jar (4 oz., ½ cup size) with one bean. Simply split open the bean, scrape out the insides (these are seeds) and add to the jar. I throw in the leftover bean “skin” too. Then fill the bottle with rum, seal the lid tight and give it a good shake. Allow to sit and soak for at least 24 hours. Anytime I walk by it within that first 24 hours I’ll give it a little shake. Then use at will – ‘cause you’ve got extract people!