When I was younger I didn’t even believe vanilla was a flavor. I just thought it meant “without flavor added.” I don’t feel like chocolate ice cream; please remove the chocolate. Okay. That’s called vanilla. I was also debilitatingly puzzled at how “original” flavor potato chips just meant plain, but usually “original” meant unique. Those are clearly opposites. But original can also mean first. That’s the moral of that story.
When I was a few months younger than now, I would see a single vanilla bean in a jar at the regular grocery store, and it cost (and still does) $13. I was thus AGAIN living in a world of chaos and confusion when people would regularly add them to recipes. I said (I know some of you have heard me say this haha), “I don’t want to make a $20 batch of cookies or what have you!!!”
Well. The answer to this dilemma is do not purchase them at major food outlets. This is true of most spices because for some reason they are overpriced there, I guess because people think they can’t get them elsewhere. Try the smaller specialty stores or Asian markets is what I hear, but I haven’t done much shopping around. Vanilla beans are still a bit pricey and in my opinion only worth the investment in dishes (desserts, I guess) that are VANILLA flavored (not with vanilla as an afterthought). Because now I have seen the light. Vanilla is a FLAVOR.
As usual, Amazon will hook you up for cheap. I came across this (next) website on a blog, I forget which, my apologies, but you’ll see that here on Beanilla.com you can purchase 10 vanilla beans for only $9, which is what I did.
To operate a vanilla bean, you simply slit it open then scrape out the goop inside, which is seeds. Discard the outside. And let me tell you. Scraped a vanilla bean dry as the desert and made some vanilla bean ice cream (as seen here). Just wow. Vanilla is a quite rich and complex flavor. I’m not even sure what I’m here to say about it besides I’m sorry for all those years when I didn’t know. It’s a much stronger flavor than vanilla extract and the SMELL is deeeeeeeeelightful.
Just an experience I think everyone should have. Smellin that fresh vanilla bean juice.
Oh wait, and there is VANILLA EXTRACT and IMITATION VANILLA EXTRACT. The first is alcohol that has had a vanilla bean sitting in it for awhile and then removed. The good stuff. Again, the expensive stuff. IMITATION VANILLA EXTRACT! Don’t trust it! It has nothing to do with vanilla. Just sugar and chemicals that want to TRICK you. It’s not as strong either, so you should double the amount in recipes that call for REAL vanilla extract, which is ALL OF THEM. I mean, it’s still fine, I don’t know why I’m being a snob about this, but you should just know the difference and then decide accordingly.