It seems that almost every baking recipe, and many other sweet treats, call for vanilla extract. Although the price of full beans and their extract may tempt you to substitute imitation vanilla, the cooks in my family were firm believers of using the real deal long before Jamie Oliver told the world that the fake version comes from the beaver anal gland. He didn’t have that quite right, but other sources of synthetic vanillin include coal tar, paper waste, and cow poop, which don’t sound any more appealing. Since companies are only required to use the label “artificial vanilla” or “imitation vanilla,” you’ll never really know what you’re eating.
When a 2017 cyclone wiped out a large chunk of Madagascar’s vanilla crop, prices for beans skyrocketed. So in splurging for the real stuff, you can get the most bang for your buck by making your own extract from vanilla beans: Scrape out the seeds needed for your recipe, and then use the pods for your extract, like you would for vanilla-infused sugar. Once you realize how easy it is to infuse this vanilla flavor, you’ll be on your way to making alcoholic infusions you intend to drink—liqueurs like triple sec.
Learn to make Homemade Vanilla Extract and Homemade Orange Liqueur