Vanilla a tropical climbing orchid that has fragrant flowers and long podlike fruit. • Genus Vanilla, family Orchidaceae: many species, in particular V. planifolia, the chief commercial source of vanilla beans.
Vanilla beans are still hand pollinated today! That is the reason they are a bit pricey. Did you know, that Madagascar produces more than half of all the vanilla beans?!
To make vanilla extract you need vanilla beans, and vodka. To get vanilla beans the cheapest place is on eBay, I just bought a pound of vanilla beans for a total of $17. These are extract, grade B beans. I got regular (more expensive) vanilla beans from my homebrew shop for $13 for 9 beans, they are larger beans, and grade A, but still. The best prices are on eBay.
To make it I fill up a 750ml bottle with vodka (40%abv) and add 9 big vanilla beans, or 20 small ones. Take the beans and on a cutting board split them down the middle to help extract it more. If it is on the strong side that is alright. Keep topping up the bottle with vodka as you use it. It will take a few weeks before the vanilla is extracted from the beans, be patient. Shake the bottle every day or so to keep it well mixed. Expect a wait from 1-3 months. It will keep forever.
So, buy some beans, grab some vodka and start some vanilla extract! It makes great gifts! Once you can make vanilla extract explore with other things, cocoa powder, coffee, orange zest, the range is limitless.
Here is a photo of mine, I just put the beans and vodka in today.