A lot of home chefs just reach for the bottle of vanilla extract when they want to add this taste to their traditional Mexican foods or whichever recipes they are making, but the fresh pods are a much better idea. Just like using a stick of cinnamon gives a more authentic flavor than using a pinch of ground cinnamon, using a fresh vanilla bean to make your authentic Mexican food recipes will make them much nicer than just using a pinch of flavored sugar or a drop of essence.
This ingredient is extracted from Mexican orchids and it is the second most expensive spice after saffron, due to the amount of physical work needed to prepare it. Vanilla features in more than just cookies and cakes. It is sometimes added to perfume, seafood recipes and even pipe tobaccos and cigars.
You can add some to plain yogurt or cottage cheese for a unique gourmet flavor or stir some into your coffee or hot chocolate for a luxurious treat. So, if you are new to using this ingredient in cooking, how exactly do you prepare the bean and extract as much of the wonderful flavor as possible?
How To Open The Pod
First of all, it is best to steam your pod for a minute or two. This makes the slippery surface easier to cut into. Slice lengthwise to open the bean and scrape out the seeds. It is best to have a plate or some waxed paper underneath the pod, to catch any falling seeds. This is not a cheap ingredient and you will not want to waste or lose any of the little seeds.
The recipe might tell you to add the seeds to a cold, warm, or hot liquid or it might tell you to add the whole bean. It should be infused for a minimum of ten minutes, if you are using it in the recipe, and then removed. The little black seeds will remain in the liquid.
Store your beans in an airtight container somewhere cool and dark. They can be stored with your other spices but keep them well away from the oven because heat will destroy their delicate aroma and flavor.
How To Make Vanilla Sugar
Do not discard the empty bean because you can use it to make flavored sugar. Put the scraped-out bean into a clean, empty jar and cover it with white sugar. Put a tight-fitting lid on the jar and let it set for a few weeks. Keep it out of direct sunlight. The vanilla pod will flavor all the sugar in the jar. As you use the sugar, you can top up the jar with fresh sugar and let the pod flavor it. This flavored sugar is nice in coffee or desserts.
How Much Vanilla Is In One Pod?
One pod, or bean, holds an amount of vanilla equal to one teaspoon of pure ground vanilla, half a teaspoon of nectar, three teaspoons of extract or one pouch of the infusion. Knowing this means you can choose another method of adding the flavor to your authentic Mexican food recipes if you prefer, or if you are on a tight budget.
Christine Szalay-Kudra is an author, food expert and mom of four boys. She is the owner of the Recipe Publishing Network a group of sites dedicated to fine food and information for cooks. When not busy with her business you can find her sharing on one of these social networks at her own URL: http://www.recipepublishingnetwork.net/
Article Source: EzineArticles.com