I seem to recall finding this idea in a Cooks Illustrated Magazine, but I cannot lay my hands on to the original to confirm it. It is perfectly wonderful alternative to store bought vanilla. I have used two jars of it for all sorts of baking projects and only have good things to say about it. And, it smells wonderful.
First, VERY CAREFULLY warm ¾ cup of vodka. I used Skyy Vodka. Take a whole vanilla bean and cut it lengthwise. Open up the bean and scrape out the goody goo with the side of a knife. Put the seeds and the whole bean in a heat resistant sealable jar. I use a Ball jar. Pour the hot vodka over the vanilla beans and seal the jar. For about a week, shake the jar daily. Then it is ready to put in the cabinet for daily use. This does have vanilla flotsam, if you will, in it. If you are picky about that sort of thing, you can strain what you use. I don’t.
I think it would make a great homemade hostess gift or Christmas present. I have one friend who told me that she has done this trick using rum instead of vodka, and another who has done it with high quality bourbon. The bourbon friend even had the restraint to let it sit for several months before she used it to build the flavor. And, I have another friend who asked me to make her a martini out of it. I didn’t try it, but it sounds like a great idea too.
Vanilla Beans: let’s talk about this for a second. I was offended when I went into my local grocery store and found a jar of Spice Islands Whole Vanilla Bean with one scrawny bean in the jar on sale for ten dollars. That would make this project cost prohibitive and just annoying. So I searched around on the internet and found a source for beans and decided to take a chance. Furthermore it was an independent seller on Amazon with free shipping.JR Mushrooms & Specialties Madagascar Vanilla Beans. The order arrived very quickly. The bourbon friend from above ordered the same batch I did and was equally happy with her transaction.
When the beans arrived and I opened my little padded envelope I nearly fell over from the aroma of the vanilla. It was incredible. And, even better, the beans were plump and moist and lovely. I received approximately 16 fat vanilla beans for about fifteen dollars. It was a heck of a deal. I still have about 10 left and it is inspiring me to find new and interesting ways to use vanilla beans. And, though double bagged, I still get greeted with the intoxicating aroma of vanilla every time I open my pantry.
Note: Please also see Homemade Vanilla Extract with Dripping Springs Vodka to see how to make an entire bottle of vodka based vanilla. It is a fantastic host or hostess gift.