So I picked up half a pound of Grade B Madagascar Vanilla Beans from the usual eBay supplier, a 1.75 liter slug of the next-to-the-cheapest 80 proof vodka (“carefully distilled, then filtered through selected charcoal”) from the neighborhood liquor store, and scavenged some bottles from the basement stash:
The proper mix seems to be around 2 ounces of beans per 16 liquid ounces of 80-ish proof vodka, which nearly fill the two round half-liter (16.9 fluid ounce) bottles. The flat bottle on the right has the rest of that Devil’s Spring 160 proof rotgut, cut down to 90 proof, with enough beans to make the answer come out right for that volume. The leftmost round bottle has the remainder of the beans in the appropriate volume, which is why it’s half full. The little bottle is that one, minus doses for my hot chocolate & pancakes.
One motivation for using 80 proof vodka is that a teaspoon of 160 proof hooch brings a cup of hot chocolate right up around 3 proof. That earlier batch really didn’t have enough vanilla to be effective, but increasing the total dosage would put a dent in my already meager afternoon productivity…
Although the recipes recommend daily shaking for a month before the brew reaches equilibrium, I’m sure this is one of those exponential diffusion deals that’s mostly done after a day or three. These two bottles show the concentration on the next morning, after and before shaking:
Chopping half a pound of vanilla beans on the kitchen cutting board produces an interesting side effect: everything you cut for the next day or so smells strongly of vanilla, as does the entire kitchen end of the house, as do your fingers. Mostly, that’s OK, but we decided vanilla-scented onions were just plain weird and there really isn’t any justification for vanilla-flavored green tea.