There are 3 popular varieties of Vanilla we currently see here in the US. There is Mexican Vanilla, Madascar Bourbon Vanilla, and Tahitian Vanilla and the taste will vary with place of origin. You can purchase vanilla by the bean, as a powder or in liquid extract.
Here are a few tips for using and storing vanilla beans:
- Wrap vanilla beans in aluminum foil, seal in a zip-top bag and store in a cool, dark place. This will keep them for several months.
- If the bean does dry out – fill the tube with the bean still inside (if it is still in the original tube) with light cream or half-and-half and let it soak in the refrigerator a couple of days. This will soften the bean and you can split it and scrape it. Use the vanilla-flavored cream for your coffee, or to bake with.
- Make vanilla sugar by taking the scraped out bean and placing it in a jar of white sugar, or confectioners’ sugar. Use the confectioners’ sugar to sprinkle over pastries and cakes, as well as for frosting and cooking. As you use the sugar, replace it with fresh sugar. The bean will flavor the sugar for a couple of months if they are good quality. You can also use the beans that you used to make vanilla extract for this purpose, after they are strained from the liquid (see recipe below).
- You can take the beans, and powder them in a food mill and use the ‘dust’ to flavor food.
To split and scrape a vanilla bean: place the bean on your work surface. Split it lengthwise with a sharp paring knife. With the tip of the knife, scrape out the black paste from each half. This is the seed. Use the seed in your recipes.
You need vanilla beans and vodka. Cut the vanilla beans into quarters, and split them lengthwise. Place the pieces into small, clean, dry bottles that have a tight cap.
Add 1 oz. (2 tbsp) of vodka per vanilla bean. Cap and shake well. Shake the bottle often, the extract will be ready in about 4 weeks. Before using, strain the vanilla into a clean bottle. Store tightly capped.
Note: Store all vanilla extract in a cool dark place. Vanilla extract is sensitive to heat and light.
This would make a great homemade gift. Enjoy!