A New York Times article on what to keep in your pantry mentioned "bargains in bulk" for vanilla beans when purchased on-line. Since this has always seemed too pricey for me to try, I decided to do a little research and found a) a good-looking source for beans, a pound of which would be about the price of a large bottle of vanilla extract (and, if the number of beans in a pound is accurate, would make far more extract) and b) a great article about making your own vanilla extract.
Have I tried any of this yet? Nope. After all, going from never having used a vanilla bean to buying more than 100 at a time, even from a wonderful source, seems like a big jump. But I am strongly considering trying it out. I really love good vanilla in so many things, so it seems like this would be a good project for a new year. It could be a frugal way to go (especially if I find others to share some of that huge volume of beans), and it sounds like it might be fun to try, but it definitely is not a fast project-though the actual work in making the extract after getting the supplies sounds like it only takes minutes.
Some of the links that I found helpful:
the NY Times article that started the search:
A really great blog post, with lots of narrative, a "recipe" for making extract, and some good feedback in the responses:
Another blog with some interesting feedback; this one recommends going on E-bay for the beans:
A frequently recommended source for beans:
A more formal recipe for making vanilla extract (this site also sells beans, but they looked to be a lot more expensive than some of the other on-line sources):