Vanilla beans are precious. Like saffron, vanilla is one of the most treasured (and expensive) spices on earth. Fortunately, about a year ago I inherited a lot of spices from a friend who was leaving Liberia. My jaw was dropped when I saw the zipper bag full of vanilla beans in the box. The bad news was they were very very dry (see the photo below). I wanted to rescue them to find a way to utilize this super dry but valuable beans. I decided to try making a homemade vanilla extract in order to save these precious beans by allowing them to soak up all the liquid and be reborn again. It worked wonderfully and I have been using these rehabilitated beans for months.
Here is how to make a vanilla extract at home.
Put a dozen vanilla beans in a sterolyzed glass jar or bottle and fill with high-proof alcohol such as vodka or rum. It will be ready to use in a month. The vanilla extract will live forever if you add more vanilla beans and alcohol over time.
I used vodka for the neutral flavor but I would love to try to make it again with rum later on. I can have both vodka vanilla extract and rum vanilla extract and choose one based on what I am making.
Unfortunately, I can't take this jar with me when I leave Liberia but I will give this to my best Liberian baker friend in town.