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Putting a Vanilla bean in Hot chocolate , pudding or putting it in sugar is  one of those culinary experiences that I love so much . It is such a heavenly  aroma. I keep a jar of the Vanilla sugar handy so I can open it up and just smell it. Like Wine there are subtle flavors that give vanilla its special aroma. I really notice them not at first but in indirect ways like when I drink a good glass of wine ...the lingering flavors that unfold are so pleasant..

 I have just recently started using vanilla beans more instead of  vanilla extract. I recommend getting one just to experience one of these wonders of nature. One bean goes a long way and can be used many times.   You can get six beans for about $2.  First of all you want to ask for long 6 to 8 inch beans, that are supple and glossy. Madagascar and Mexican are considered the best.

Vanilla sugar is wonderful to dip a nice tart apple wedge into,  sprinkle on toast , or put in your coffee. Vanilla powdered sugar is nice to roll  Mexican Wedding cookies in, for that finishing touch. Vanilla sugar or homemade vanilla extract  makes a nice gift also, in a decorative glass jar. 

Early recordings have shown that Spanish conquistadors encountered vanilla in Mexico, where it was being used to flavor chocolate. They called it Vanilla...which means "little sheath" . It became  popular quickly. But the popularity skyrocketed with the onset of Ice Cream.

 The French took the spices down to the country of Madagascar and avoiding the Dutch tried to develop a nice source of Vanilla amongst other spices for themselves. They could not get the orchid to produce pods though?  They were successful  later by  developing a hand pollination method.

Vanilla pods are actually an Orchid believe it or not that bears edible fruit. it is a rather small plain yellow  orchid that produces these long 7 to 8 inch pods.
The pods look like green beans and are picked green and need to dry and then ferment to develop that rich flavor. It is a complicated process involving many months , that is why the price is very high.

Even good real vanilla extract will get better with age like a wine. It is the flavor vanillin which is found in the bean the gives vanilla its predominate flavor. Imitation vanilla is made from a wood by product that has vanillin in it.


Powdered Vanilla


1/4 Cup Powdered Confectionary Sugar 

1 Vanilla Bean


 For an intense flavor grind the bean and blend with the sugar in a small coffee grinder. 

The flavor increases with time, and will exude into foods when baked.

  The bean can be used for other purposes as well. 



8 split vanilla beans, cut 1" long

1 quart cognac (or vodka works well)

Place vanilla beans and cognac into a jar and tightly seal. Let

Stand in a cool dark place for 1 month. 
Shake bottle gently from
 time to time 
Pour liquid through a cheesecloth lined sieve into a clean bottle.

Seal tightly and store in a cool dark place.