This is a Thrifty & Delicious Food Gift Idea!
Vanilla beans are wonderful items to have in your pantry simply because they are relatively inexpensive when bought in bulk and each of the 175-200 beans in a pound are incredibly potent. For example, you can slice the bean open and use the tiny seeds in your favorite baked treat or ice cream, but don’t discard the leftover shells! You can use those to make vanilla extract, vanilla vodka, or any other vanilla flavoring you can think of.
For further proof of the potency of vanilla beans: One bean can be used to flavor two cups of vanilla sugar, and then that same bean can be used to make vanilla flavored vodka, and then used again to flavor your favorite holiday beverage such as mulled wine. Just rinse with each use and start again. Over time a bean will start to lose its vanilla goodness depending on how vigorously it’s been used, but their uses can defiantly be stretched if you just get a little creative.
How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract
Step 1) Leave all the beans intact except for one. Slice that one in half exposing the seeds. (Don’t scrape the seeds out, this step is just to create more surface area for the bean to the alcohol.)
Step 2) Place all vanilla beans into the jar
Step 3) Pour in the alcohol.
Step 4) Leave the mixture to sit in the pantry for 4-6 weeks, swirling it around maybe once a week to check its progress. Give it a whiff. After a couple weeks, you should have some very nice vanilla vodka (if that was your alcohol of choice.) But if you let it sit for the full 4-6 weeks you will have a lovely amber liquid (i.e. vanilla extract) ready for baking, or whatever you use extract for.
As the vanilla is used, the jar can be replenished with more alcohol. Or if you need a vanilla bean for a recipe, you can pluck an intact one out and use its seeds. Just rinse it off and you’re ready to go! Keep adding more alcohol and beans as they are used, and there will be extract for years. And if you have extra beans, you can make other things with them too, like vanilla sugar.
Note: Do not store vanilla beans in the refrigerator, they will dry out prematurely. Instead store them in a plastic bag or container in the pantry.
See also: How to Make Vanilla Sugar