It's easy, honest!
I tend to use a little bit more enthusiasm than is required when I'm pouring vanilla into just about anything I'm baking. For starters, I don't really measure it... I just pour. And that gets pricey if you're spending $12 or so on a teeny little bottle. So here's what you need:
1 bottle (750ml) vodka, rum or bourbon:
Now in order for the beans to fit in the bottle, you need to pour some of the alcohol out. Depending on what you'd like to do with this excess liquid may dictate what type of alcohol you wish to use! I prefer vodka because it doesn't have a taste and you get the full flavor of the bean, but some of the photos below are using a bottle of bourbon whiskey which does have a lovely complimentary flavor.
15 vanilla beans:
Vanilla beans are expensive if you're buying one or two at a time for $5 each from your grocer. I go through so much vanilla that I buy my beans in "bulk". The Light Cellar down in Bowness (Calgary, AB) sells vanilla beans that are of the utmost quality and at an affordable price!
Once you've acquired these two items from your scavenger hunt list, you'll need a paring knife & a cutting board. Cut each of the beans lengthwise starting just below the top of the bean )where it was attached to the rest of the plant) but leave the bean intact. You want to expose the seeds which are the little specs of black that will get everywhere during this process. You can see them in this bottle:
Once you have cut open all of the beans, stick them into the bottle. Place the bottle in a dark place & let it be. This is where your patience comes into play. You can shake the bottle as often as you remember to, but try to do it once a day for the first week & once a week after that. I've read on some websites that 8 weeks is enough time, but I disagree. The first batch of vanilla I ever made was part of several gift baskets that were done up as Christmas gifts, and the vanilla still smelled boozy. It shouldn't.
These two bottles shown were started in May of this year. I'd give it three months. At least. If you'd like to gift some homemade vanilla for Christmas this year (6 weeks to go dear!) you'll want to bottle it as close to Christmas as possible & leave one or more of the beans in the bottle. Maybe attach a note telling the recipient not to remove the bean(s) & not to use it for a month or so.
Good luck dear... not that you'll need it- This is SO easy