Chop the beans into 1/4 to 1/2 inch long pieces. Many recipes call for sling and scraping, but if you simply cut the beans into small pieces, you can get the same results with much less mess and effort.
Place the cut vanilla beans in a lidded, glass jar with 70 to 90 proof vodka. I prefer to use vodka bottled in glass rather than plastic, and watch for whatever’s on sale. Lately I’ve been using Svedka. You can see the bean pieces at the bottom of the jar and the floating vanilla flecks.
Shake the bottle once a day for at least a month, and you have homemade vanilla extract. I usually aim for two to three months. The color and flavor will deepen with age.
Strain the finished extract through cheesecloth, a coffee filter or a flour sack towel to filter and place in a dark bottle. Mountain Rose Herbs has a variety of sizes of extract bottles in brown glass, as well as some in blue glass. You can also order from other places online, or reuse empty extract bottles that you already have on hand. Alternatively, you can measure right out of your brewing bottle and continue to let the rest steep, or pour off some and let the rest steep. I like to bottle what I’m using separately to reduce any risk of contamination from dipping into an open jar (even if it is filled with alcohol).
Store in a cool, dark location.
If you buy the vanilla beans in bulk you can save even more (I have split orders with friends). You can also buy assortments of beans and mix and match types for subtle flavor differences. I think my homemade extract with a mix a beans tastes and smells as good or better than any commercial extract I’ve tried.
For gift giving, you may want to consider using different alcohols (such as brandy or rum) combined with different bean types for a truly unique gift. Or just make up one big batch and split it into small decorative bottles.