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Posts Tagged ‘using old vanilla pods’

We make our own vanilla extract (I wrote a post about it here) by infusing vodka or brandy with vanilla pods.  It’s a fun, rewarding process which produces a magnificently aromatic brew, perfect for use in cakes, desserts, syrups and jams.

Each bottle takes a minimum of three months for the vanilla flavour to seep into the alcohol, and once a bottle is finished, it can be refilled a second time to maximise the output of the expensive vanilla beans.

I haven’t had a lot of success with trying to reuse the beans a third time – the pods don’t seem to have enough oomph to create an extract strong enough for my tastes.  They’re still very vanillary though, and we’ll often scrape the tiny black seeds into Pete’s vanilla syrup or ice cream.

After all the Christmas baking, I had more than a dozen used beans, which I just couldn’t bring myself to throw out.

Today, while the oven was on low (100C – I was baking chocolate meringues), I popped the beans in for about ten minutes to dry them off slightly.  I then filled the food processor with granulated white sugar and scraped out the moist centres of the pods on top.  As the vanilla beans were already split down the middle from the extract making process, this wasn’t a difficult process. I wore a pair of disposable kitchen gloves and simply pushed the fine seeds out with my thumb.

The sugar and vanilla seeds were pulsed together until well combined, resulting in a soft grey sugar with a squillion tiny black flecks.  It’s the perfect addition to a cup of tea (Big Boy and Small Man now refuse to drink tea  sweetened with anything other than vanilla sugar) and is particularly delicious sprinkled over the crust of an apple pie prior to baking.

A note on the pods – once the seeds were removed, I discarded the leftover shells.  In the past I’ve tried blitzing them as well, but found the results too fibrous for my liking.

Of course, this can just as easily be made with brand new beans, but it’s particularly rewarding to get a third life out of my used ones.  My spent pods made over a kilo and a half of vanilla sugar!

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