How To Use A Vanilla Bean
Learn all of the best ways to use a vanilla bean.
The alluring flavors and smells of vanilla have captured the senses of individuals worldwide. Vanilla flavoring is found is in our food, in the aromatics we put in our homes, and for that matter, even in the perfumes we put on ourselves. We bake with vanilla extract, we devour vanilla ice cream, and we breathe in the soothing scents of vanilla candles. The thing is, however, is that all of these products are infused with vanilla that has been pre-processed in some way or another. So, in a way, your actual vanilla experience is limited by what the end product puts forth. To experience vanilla as it is just after it has left the hands of the farmers who have worked tirelessly and diligently to cultivate it, then you’ll need to purchase a vanilla bean, or rather, a sachet of vanilla beans.
You can use vanilla beans in a variety of different ways. However, since, especially in the United States, we are so used to working with vanilla that has been pre-processed for use, it might be unclear how and what you can use a vanilla bean for. The elusively of something so familiar, and yet so foreign, inspired us to discover how to best utilize a vanilla bean.
HOW TO OPEN A VANILLA BEAN
Before you can begin to take advantage of a vanilla bean’s many uses, you first have to properly spit it open to access the seeds inside. The tiny seeds inside the bean itself are what gives vanilla its tantalizing taste and odor. Follow the steps below to learn how to properly access the delicate seeds inside.
- 1 vanilla bean (or number you wish to split open)
- Small, Sharp knife
- Cutting board or clean work surface
- Tiny spoon
- Small bowl
Lay one vanilla bean on your work surface with the curving ends facing opposite of you.
Hold the vanilla bean in place with one hand and with the other use the small knife to cut gently into the center of the pod. Do not cut all the way through the bean as you may damage the delicate seeds inside.
Using your hands, beginning from the slit that you made, gently separate the bean in two.
Using a small spoon scrape out the seeds inside into a small bowl. Your seeds are now ready for use. Repeat the sequence if you are intending on using the seeds from more than one bean.
Note: Unsliced whole beans can be kept in a zip lock bag in a cool, dry place for up to 3 weeks.
Similar to pre-processed vanilla extract, vanilla beans can easily be used in a variety of recipes. You can use the seeds you scraped out of a vanilla bean in any recipe that calls for vanilla extract. When substituting keep in mind that the seeds from one whole vanilla bean are equivalent to one tablespoon of vanilla extract.
If you enjoy making homemade vanilla ice cream, then using the seeds from the vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract will serve to take your ice cream to the next level. Not only will the ice cream be infused with the complex untarnished flavor only found in pure vanilla seeds but aesthetically you be able to see the fruits of your efforts as the ice cream will be dotted with flecks of black. The black flecks are a defining characteristic of true vanilla bean ice cream.
There is also a variety of other creative cooking uses for the seeds inside a vanilla bean. You can mix the seeds in with your ground coffee right before brewing. This will serve to infuse your morning cup with the subtle earthy and sweet notes of vanilla’s complex flavor profile.
Additionally, you can make your own vanilla sugar by putting split pods inside an airtight canister containing sugar and then leaving it to infuse for about a month. You can even make your own homemade vanilla extract by putting approximately 14 split beans with seeds intact into a 750-milliliter bottle of 70 proof hard liquor (Rum and Vodka work best) then leave it to rest for one month. Also, If you occasionally like to savor a glass of rum then the seeds from a bean can serve as a wonderful enhancement for your rum of choice.
Vanilla beans are also great for making your own homemade fragrances. To make a simple air freshener combine vanilla extract that you had prepared previously (see the last paragraph from the cooking section) with one cup of water. Put the solution in a spray bottle and use it at your leisure.
Another great use for vanilla beans is to use them to make your own perfume. Begin by preparing your own extract (once again, see the last paragraph from the cooking section). Once the extract is adequately fermented and the scent is to the degree of potency that you prefer, strain the extract through a cheesecloth into a separate container. Add one ounce of jojoba oil and combine. At this point, you can store the perfume in tiny spray bottles. If kept in a cool dark place, the homemade vanilla bean perfume should last about 4 months.
Vanilla beans are one of nature’s true gifts. Their scent and flavor not only infuse our senses with intrinsically enjoyable smells and tastes, but the versatility of vanilla beans lends itself well to a whole host of other uses. We encourage you to branch out from the vanilla products you find on store shelves and experience the permeating potency that only a fresh vanilla bean can provide.