You can grind hardened vanilla pods with sugar in a food processor for intense vanilla sugar, or stick them in a bottle of neutral spirits, like vodka, and make your own vanilla extract.
Every now and then I throw in a few used beans that I’ve rinsed, or just the withered ones I’ve kept too long. After a few days, they become plump again. In a pinch, I’ve fished a bean out of my extract when I needed one. The seeds become a little diluted, but the pod is still pretty flavorful.
I’m not even going to remind you that this is essentially vanilla-flavored vodka, because you might think of some tasty cocktail to make with it, and use it all up. Might make you happy, though!
Vanilla beans (the more you use, the better the flavor)
Vodka or light rum
Choose a clean glass container with a stopper. I save clear glass wine bottles with screw tops and distinctive shapes and run them through the dishwasher.
Break the beans into pieces and put the in the bottle; pour in enough vodka or rum to cover the beans. Cover securely and set aside for about 2 weeks. When the liquid is dark brown and fragrant, it’s ready to use.