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How to Buy and Use Vanilla Beans

Here's what to look for when buying vanilla beans and the easiest way to open and de-seed them for using in cooking and baking.

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When buying vanilla beans, look for beans that are plump, long, and moist...never dry-looking, cracked or brittle. The best ones come from Madagascar and Tahiti.

To use a vanilla bean, cut the pod in half lengthwise. Then open it up and expose the tiny seeds inside. Scrape out the seeds with the back of a paring knife or a teaspoon. Stir the seeds and the bean pod into whatever you're cooking or baking according to the recipe instructions. Now your sauce, custard or baked good will have that speckled look that indicates a fresh vanilla bean was used. After using the bean, wash it off completely and dry it well so that you can use it again. Wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 months. You can also use repurpose used vanilla pods to make vanilla sugar. See the article How to Make Vanilla Sugar for instructions.

NOTE: The seeds from one vanilla bean will equal about one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.

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