Have you ever read the ingredient label on vanilla extract? “Pure” vanilla extract can often contain sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings and caramel color. Once you make your own vanilla extract, you will never want to go back to store-bought. It’s easy, economical, and the result is pure and delicious.

Flavored extracts are most often made using a base of alcohol. Vanilla extract is typically made with vodka when a pure vanilla flavor is desired. A rum or bourbon-based version will yield a richer and more complex flavor. Whichever type of spirit you use, select a high-quality liquor that’s at least 35% alcohol, and consider buying one that is organic.

Buy your vanilla beans from the best possible source: Look for fresh, whole beans from a trusted seller. Select beans that are soft, pliable and tender. It will be much cheaper to buy your beans in bulk than to purchase them individually at retail.

You can make up your batch of vanilla in whatever container you choose, but best results are obtained with a glass jar or bottle that will seal tightly, such as a swing top bottle. Make sure your bottle is sterilized and completely dry before you begin to make your vanilla.

If you have any leftover beans, store them in a sealed glass jar. Keep your beans away from light and heat, but do not refrigerate or freeze them. Some experts say to open the jar every few weeks to let the air circulate among the beans. Stored properly, beans can last up to a year, depending on how old they were when you bought them.