Vanilla pods contain the seeds from the vanilla orchid plant. Real vanilla is expensive as each plant must be pollinated individually by hand. Then the green pods must be cured in the sun over several days, raised to high temperatures and 'sweated' in cloth to achieve the complex balance of sugars and aromatics, then dried and straightened out for several weeks. This process also transforms the green seed pods into the characteristic wrinkly, dark-brown pods.
Vanilla pods should be stored in an air-tight container to keep them flavourful.
The pods can be used either whole or split to disperse the aromatic seeds, which can be scraped out and added to custards, ice cream, etc. The pods can then stored in a sugar jar to impart their flavour, or they can be infused directly in custards, creams and milk puddings.
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