I've had some people asking questions about the vanilla favors. Turns out, I wasn't very specific in my original post! So, let's get to it!
1. What kind of beans did you buy?
I took the advice of a few other bloggers and went with the Tahitian Grade B vanilla beans. The ones that I bought are 5 to 7 inches each, but I don't know that it matters much how long they are. You don't need to splurge on the Grade A beans -- they simply have a higher moisture content. The flavor in the beans doesn't come from the water though! The lower moisture content of the Grade B beans will work better for making vanilla extract (probably why Grade B beans are also called "extract beans.").
2. How many beans did you buy? How much will that yield?
I bought 1 pound of vanilla beans. I put 2 beans in each 6.25 ounce bottle (bought from Save-On-Crafts). Most recipes say 1 to 3 beans per cup of alcohol (depending on how long and plump the beans are). I went ahead and did 2 per bottle just to be safe (my bottles hold less than 1 cup of alcohol). And, you can always add more vodka later and the beans will still produce more extract (for a time at least -- the bean will eventually run dry, so to speak).
I did about 42 jars (since 6 of the jars broke during shipment -- still haven't heard anything from Save On Crafts about that!). So, that's about 84 beans used. I used right around half of the pound for all 42 jars (they say to estimate 140 to 160 beans per pound for the Grade B beans). So, if you're doing smaller jars, you could probably get away with one bean per jar and make 140 to 160 jars on one pound of beans. If you're making larger jars, you'll need more beans. With the jars that I was using and two beans per jar, I could probably make 80 jars (possibly more -- I think my pound had more than 160 beans in it).
3. Where did you buy your beans?
I bought my beans on eBay from seller vanillaproducts. The actual page I bought them from is here. If you buy more than $10 worth of beans, you receive 10 free Grade B beans. If you buy more than $20 worth, you get 1/4 pound of Grade A beans free. If you buy $35 or more, you get a half pound of Grade A beans free. And, if you buy $60 or more, you get a free pound of Grade A beans.
I was very pleased with my order. I received the beans in just 2 days. And, the beans seemed to be good quality. My whole kitchen smelled like vanilla within just a few minutes of opening the beans. Just remember to store the beans in a cool dark place! That goes for the extract when it's jarred as well!
4. What kind of alcohol did you use?
You can use plain vodka or rum. I'm more of a vodka fan though, so I just picked up the cheapest vodka I could find at the local liquor store. You can also use spiced rum to give the vanilla a little kick. It just depends on what kind of flavor you are going for.
I hope that this helps! I know there are lots of options when it comes to beans, but the vanilla extract is actually pretty simple to make. Happy extracting!