Anna Pump from Loaves and Fishes in Sagaponack showed me how to make my own vanilla extract. Find a tall bottle that will hold at least a dozen vanilla beans. Fill the bottle with vodka. Let the beans marinate in the vodka for at least a month, and then you will have two wonderful ingredients for cooking and baking. First, the vodka will become vanilla extract, but more important, you can snip off one end of a vanilla bean and squeeze out all of the seeds for baking uses. This "brew" can continue for years by just adding more vanilla beans and more vodka. I've had mine stored on a shelf in the pantry for almost twenty years!
"The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" by Ina Garten © Clarkson Potter 1999. Provided courtesy of Ina Garten. All rights reserved.