Ask A Cook

July 08, 2009|By McClatchy Tribune

Vanilla beans are so expensive. Is there a way to save money on them?

Even if a recipe calls for a whole vanilla bean, you don't necessarily have to use the whole thing. The long pod often is folded in half in the container, so you can cut it into two lengths and just use one section. If you use a vanilla bean to infuse something like a syrup, you often can rinse the pod, let it air-dry and use it a second time.

If the recipe calls for slitting open the pod to scrape out the tiny seeds, such as when you flavor a vanilla ice cream or custard base, you also shouldn't throw away the leathery pod. Bury it in sugar in a closed canister or jar and let it sit for a couple of weeks. You'll end up with vanilla sugar, lovely stuff for sweetening tea or sprinkling on baked goods as a finishing touch.

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