I always save out a bean or two and stick them in with some of that 'sugar in the raw'--coarse grained, brownish crystals. Leave it for a couple months and you will have vanilla sugar that is terrific for topping sugar cookies, in tea, or in yogurt.
After my vanilla beans have steeped in the vodka for 6 months to a year, I strain the beans out, bottle the vanilla and add another round of vodka to the used beans. The second batch takes a little longer, I think, to reach full strength.
I don't split my beans, I just chop them into little pieces.
I just haven't been the same
since that house fell on my sister.