First of all, you know how much I have professed my undying love for Nielsen-Massey extracts, no? Believe me, my crush is still in tact. But, you know what? Lately, I have been using an inordinate amount of vanilla beans (those little black flecks in ice cream and pudding are so pretty!) and I just can’t throw the withered pods away (because they’re so darned expensive! I want to “extract” as much use of them as I can. And, yes, I kill myself.) So, I tuck a few spent vanilla beans into a canister of sugar for a lovely flavored addition into coffee, espressos and such. And I soak them in some alcohol, which, after three or four weeks, renders the caramel-colored liquid gold.

Plus, if you keep topping it off with more vodka and more beans, you can keep it indefinitely. I can’t think of a more original or thoughtful hostess gift. The gift that keeps on giving!

Here’s how to make it:

Fill your bottle or mason jar with vodka. You don’t need Grey Goose here –  the cheap stuff will do just fine. Add your spent vanilla beans (after they’ve been scraped, rinse them off) – you’ll need at least three – put the top on and put it away for about three to four weeks. When your extract is a pretty brown color and smells like vanilla, it’s ready.

Keep topping off your working bottle with more vodka and adding more vanilla beans. As long as you don’t allow the bottle to become too empty, you can keep filling and using your extract indefinitely.

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