Vanilla Bean

Whole Foods sells vanilla beans — a single bean folded in half and placed in its very own little spice jar:

One Bean per Jar

I bought one, so as to follow shelly_rae‘s suggestion that vanilla bean ice cream might make a good accompaniment the apple pie she’ll be bringing to Maureen’s “Orphan Thanksgiving.”

I’ve never worked with a whole vanilla bean before, but it’s kind of fun. You slice the bean open and scrape out the little tiny seeds inside:

Vanilla Bean

Since I was using the bean to make ice cream, I put the scraped-out seeds and the (now-emptied) bean into a big pan with cream, milk, and sugar, and let all the flavors meld together over low heat. I opted for a custard-based ice cream, so once the cream was hot I carefully whisked it into some egg yolks, then returned it to the heat until the custard thickened. (I think adding eggs makes this a ‘French vanilla’ as opposed to just vanilla.)

Now I just have to wait for my custard base to cool completely, then I can give it a spin in my ice cream maker, and if all goes well there will be delicious vanilla bean ice cream for on top of the pie tomorrow :)


  1. Also, the best vanilla extract comes from soaking vanilla beans in vodka. Slice the vanilla bean open and soak in vodka completely covered for about 6 months. Use in place of vanilla extract for all your cooking. (And tastes great in coffee too!)

    • Oooh, I’ll have to try that sometime!

      • Now you SO have me wanting to grow vanilla beans!

        • oops, that was me! but having looked at the processing it takes after, I think I’d rather just buy it in bean form!

          • Yup, it’s a pretty long curing process, and that’s if you can get the plant to produce beans in the first place (I think orchids can be rather temperamental that way). So I’ll keep getting my vanilla beans from the store, even if they are a bit pricey.

            • Yeah. It’s just that it can be hard to get unusual food products here sometimes. For example, I have such a hell of a time getting my hands on basil leaves, though I know it’s legal to grow it here — basil plants are sometimes, people claim, available, and it’s available as a domestic product in some places in Seoul. But with all that bother, I would rather just grow some in a balcony garden.

              But who knows. Some importer must bring in ready-to-use vanilla beans.

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