I love vanilla beans. Probably one of my favorite discoveries. I remember trying straight vanilla extract as a kid and how wonderful it smelled yet tasted terrible.
A couple of years ago I got my first vanilla beans. They aren’t cheap, but neither is good vanilla.
There are a few things to know and to do with vanilla beans. For starters there is no waste. If using in a recipe you will procure the seeds but the remaining pod is full of flavor and likely still brimming with seeds so there is plenty to do with it.
As a general rule an inch of vanilla bean is equal to a teaspoon of vanilla. Of course as with any spice it will vary by quality. In bean form though you get a very good product to work with so use accordingly.
The easiest way to harvest the seeds is to cut to desired length and make a slit down the middle. Using a dull knife or spoon scrape the seeds from the bean and add to recipe.
Now what to do with the rest of the bean. I personally keep a jar of vodka with all of the bean remnants; I use that anytime I just need some simple vanilla extract for a recipe. You can though add the bean to some sugar for some vanilla infused sugar or simply toss into a potpourri mix. What ever you do; don’t thow it out! There is so much good flavor and smell left that you really should enjoy every last bit.
I wanted to buy some ice cream the other day but then I started reading the labels; there are so many unpronounceable items in those containers even the ones that claim to be natural. I went home without any ice cream. For some reason today I picked up a container of ice cream salt and realized I should just make my own. I remembered there was an ice cream maker in the basement that probably had been setting there for I would guess at least 20 years and likely was never used. Well, turned out it was a yogurt maker so it must have been from the 90’s! Says it makes great ice cream too so I am ready to go.
Homemade Ice Cream
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups milk
seeds from 2 inch piece of vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cream
Combine egg yolks, sugar, and salt.
In double boiler add egg mixture to 2 cups milk. Begin heating over medium heat.
Heat until it begins to thicken stirring frequently. It took about 20 minutes to reach desired thickness; mixture will lightly coat a spoon when ready. Chill until ready to continue.
Meanwhile get the ice cream machine ready. This one worked relatively simply; no need for crushed ice just regular ice cubes and salt ~ follow directions for your maker before proceeding.
Once mixture has cooled add cream and vanilla.
Add to ice cream chamber of maker and begin churning as directed.
It took about 25 minutes for my first batch of ice cream to be ready.
This particular maker turned itself off when ready; simply follow directions for yours.