How to use up a billion Vanilla Beans
January 8, 2010 5:03 AM   Subscribe

I just bought a pound of vanilla beans. How should I use/store them?

I bought a pound of vanilla beans from eBay, and now I'm clueless as to how to use them all, as well as the best storage (I hear mixed things online).

I've already made vanilla pudding, vanilla sugar, pears canned in vanilla syrup, and vanilla extract. I'm planning on making creme brulee one of these days.

Any other good ideas?
posted by mccarty.tim to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Store in an airtight container at room temp in a dry place. You can try making your own vanilla ice cream. Or vanilla hot chocolate. Whole pods can be reused several times - just rinse, pat dry, and re-store.
posted by melissasaurus at 5:07 AM on January 8, 2010

Best answer: If you imbibe, you can make vanilla-infused vodka or these cherry-vanilla bitters.
posted by katie at 5:19 AM on January 8, 2010

Oh, and in the same vein as ice cream, you could make vanilla frozen yogurt. I've made this recipe and it is fantastic! It's even good without vanilla in it.
posted by katie at 5:27 AM on January 8, 2010

Best answer: Oh please do make the vanilla vodka. I tried it in desperation after buying some shit-tastic vodka. I threw in a couple beans, put the bottle on a top back shelf, and forgot about it for a month or so. Then when I went back to try it I was amazed at how such foul acerbic booze had morphed into this lovely amber liquid. Sort of like how vanilla extract smells, but never tastes, if you've had that particular tragic childhood experience. In fact I would say it's dangerously good.
posted by tractorfeed at 5:42 AM on January 8, 2010

Back before Christmas, it seemed like "everybody" was talking about making homemade vanilla extract and giving it as presents. Now I'm forgetting who "everybody" was, just seems like I saw the idea a lot.
posted by aimedwander at 5:47 AM on January 8, 2010

Response by poster: Keep the ideas coming, I like the vodka idea.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:51 AM on January 8, 2010

Vanilla sugar. Put beans in a jar with sugar and let it sit for a few weeks. You can reuse the beans a few times to do this.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:01 AM on January 8, 2010

Ani Phyo's Fuzzy Navel Smoothie is delicious and has an entire vanilla bean in it.

Fuzzy Navel Smoothie

2 oranges, peel and seed
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup pitted dates
1 vanilla bean
2 cups filtered water
posted by katinka-katinka at 7:00 AM on January 8, 2010

it seemed like "everybody" was talking about making homemade vanilla extract

Cooks Illustrated had a piece where they reviewed various commercially produced extracts and found that most people preferred the homemade version (link is behind a paywall, commercial comparison, no paywall).
posted by electroboy at 7:15 AM on January 8, 2010

Vanilla rice pudding.
posted by jonnyploy at 7:17 AM on January 8, 2010

Put 3 or 4 into an airtight container full of sugar. Vanilla sugar = win.
posted by TomMelee at 8:07 AM on January 8, 2010

You can also make vanilla bourbon or vanilla rum. Here is some advice on equipment.
posted by mkb at 8:20 AM on January 8, 2010

Make Kahlua.
posted by wsg at 9:51 AM on January 8, 2010

Vanilla sugar. Also, you can use them as for gifts to people who like to make food from scratch. They would really appreciate them.
posted by Catbunny at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2010

I got a pound of beans from madagascar this september (my mom researches vanilla orchids- lucky me) and made a lot of vanilla extract. Buy a nicer vodka (cheap compared to the beans, and is relatively flavorless compared to cheap stuff, you're going to put some work into this, why not make it nice?)- I used the kirkland costco stuff as it's good cheap and comes in large quantities. The Cooks Illustrated recipe doesn't use enough beans I think- I tried many recipes, I found that 4-6 beans per cup chopped with the caviar scrapped out into the container and stored for a month produced extremely good extractions. We did a taste test with buttercream frosting and creme brulee, the homemade extract was superior, more complex than the nice store stuff. Make sure to filter. You can reuse the beans for a second extraction (maybe a 3rd even) so you can make a ton.

check out for a complete tutorial- they go extreme, but it'll give you a good guideline on the process

I haven't thought about drinking the extract, maybe if you use one or two and only leave a bean in for a week you could make something a bit more subtle. This works for chili peppers and teas and hibiscus etc. too if you are interested.

If you want to store them, get a jar with a gasket seal, and wrap them in parchment paper, although even this doesn't stop them from drying out altogether. Vanilla sugar is real cool as already suggested- very easy as well.
posted by Large Marge at 10:32 AM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have recently made the vanilla sugar, homemade khalua, and vanila extract all talked about above and they all came out great. I made the khalua with grain alcohol instead of vodka and it came out really good. Strong but sweet.
posted by nuke3ae at 11:27 AM on January 8, 2010

When I bought a pound of vanilla beans, I used some of them but I shared most of them with my friends. I invited a few people over and we had an "urban homesteading day" in which we made vanilla extract, limoncello, cherry brandy, homemade ricotta, and a whole ton of different jams. Obv. the other things didn't involve vanilla, but they did involve shared chopping and cooking and prepping, and we all took a lot of yummy things home. Share the vanilla bean love!
posted by soleiluna at 12:28 PM on January 8, 2010

Response by poster: I'd love to share them, but my friends aren't so into cooking. I'm thinking I might make vanilla syrup, like in this blog post. Granted, I already have jars of pears in vanilla syrup, so that'd be a bit redundant. Plus, I'm secretly dreading that I'll never finish off the existing stuff in my larder.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:14 AM on January 9, 2010

Regarding the Cooks Illustrated version. I too made my own Vanilla extract this holiday season and I was perplexed by the disparity between Cooks Illustrated version and what I find at other online resources, mainly the number of sticks to use.

I placed up to 10 high quality fresh beans in a mason jar with approx. 16 oz of vodka and got pretty much the color of extract that compares to what is at the store after about three months of steeping.

It is the first time in my life I have disagreed with Cooks Illustrated's recommendations, go figure.

And, the outcome. Fantastic!!
posted by silsurf at 3:22 PM on January 9, 2010

Response by poster: Well, I put about 6 split vanilla beans into a bottle of Svedka (the nicest looking brand that fit in my budget). I'll have to see how it comes out! I'm guessing this infused vodka is also great stuff for ice creams or boozy cherries.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:22 PM on January 20, 2010

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