In the video (see above), Garten explains why manufactured vanilla isn’t always the best option. “First, if you buy store bought vanilla, buy real vanilla. Not the imitation stuff,” she says. “It's terrible.” (Garten swears by Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract, which retails for $5 at Amazon.)
The Barefoot Contessa reveals that you only need three ingredients to make homemade vanilla extract: whole vanilla beans, vodka and a sealable jar. “If you buy [whole vanilla bean] in bulk, they’re not quite as expensive,” Garten adds.
She also suggests using cheap liquor because it won’t hurt the taste. “This is no time for Grey Goose,” Garten jokes.
Once the lid is sealed, let it sit for six months before using. To prove her point, Garten pulls out a 40-year-old jar of vanilla extract that she still uses to this day. “It just sits on the shelf,” she adds. “And every once in a while, I’ll put more vanilla beans in it and more vodka.”
Garten also demonstrates how to utilize the soaked vanilla beans for other baking recipes—like cake.