How Do I Revive Vanilla Beans?
I've had excellent results following pastry chef Sherry Yard's advice to store vanilla beans in a bottle of vanilla extract. The extract's flavor is enhanced and the beans remain indefinitely moist and plump. I find the 16 oz. bottles of vanilla extract sold at the warehouse clubs to be the perfect size for storing the beans upright. After a week or so in the extract, your hardened beans should be moist and plump again. As you use the extract, pour some more from another bottle over the beans to keep then submerged.
Because vanilla beans are so pricey, I have accidentally "saved" them for so long that they've dried out. When that happens I have a technique I've used several times and it's worked for me.
I take a paper towel, run it under water, squeeze out the bulk of the water, roll up the bean(s) with the damp paper towel into a single tube, wrap that in plastic wrap and microwaved it at 15 second intervals until it's hot.
Once it's hot, I leave it to sit & steam for a good while till it cools to room temp. I squeeze on the tube to feel if the beans have become somewhat pliable again, if not I microwave it again till hot and let it cool again.
Usually the beans become pliable enough to split open.
(I also throw the empty spent pods into my sugar canister to scent that.)
I've never had to revive vanilla beans.... used them up too quickly. Vanilla beans can keep for a few years and still be viable. I'm thinking you could steep them in something. What? Vodka, maybe?? Or, zap one in the microwave and see if that works. If all else fails, submerge them in a cannister of sugar to flavor it.