the reason why it took me so long was due to an unreliable recipe. ok maybe i shouldn't call it unreliable since there might just be some people who succeeded with the recipe and got their extract ready in 6 weeks, which i highly doubt so. i followed this recipe from the traveler's lunchbox and i did what was required - poured in a bottle of nielsen massey's vanilla extract (118ml) into one liter of vodka & added in 6 newly scraped vanilla bean seeds + pods and gave it a little shake every few days and it should be ready in about 6 weeks. but 6 weeks later the color was still extremely light and reeked very strongly of alcohol so i knew it wasn't ready yet. another 3 months passed (i did throw in somemore used ones along the way) and i was getting impatient.
then one of my flickr friends posted a picture of her homemade vanilla extract and i jumped at the chance to ask her for advice. she said the extraction process takes about 6 months to be fully completed, not 6 weeks and that she started only with vodka and vanilla beans, sans extract. the guideline is to use about 3-5 beans to every cup (250ml) of vodka. so if you use a liter of vodka, you'll need about 15 or more beans. i only added 6 so that about solve the mystery. and chopped up beans is alot better than just scraped, she said.
as you can see, the color of my extract is still pretty light so i'm in the process of adding more beans into it until i get this really dark, syrupy and aromatic consistency. no matter what its definitely worth the wait since its really economical to make yr own. in sg, a 118ml bottle of nielsen massey's vanilla extract costs about $20 odd. if you make your own, 1 liter of extract will probably just cost you $50 ($35 for the bottle of vodka or even cheaper if you get it from the duty-free and 15 bucks for 15 beans). thats about $170 in savings so why not?
depending on how much you intend to make, here's a rough guide so feel free to multiply to suit your preference :
1 cup (250ml) vodka
3-5 vanilla beans, seeds scraped and pods chopped
a glass bottle
place vodka, vanilla seeds & pods in the bottle, screw cap shut and store in a cool dark place, giving it a shake once every few days. infusing time will be about 6 months so i think it makes sense to make a larger batch. everytime you use a bean pod you can throw it in. just remember if you've infused the bean in milk or cream beforehand, rinse it carefully 1st.