Vanilla beans are available in some large supermarkets, specialty stores and through mail order. They may be stored tightly wrapped in an airtight jar and refrigerated for about six months.
Vanilla beans may be slit lengthwise to scrape out the seeds, which can be used to flavor puddings, custards, cake batters and homemade ice cream. The seeds are visible as tiny black specks in the finished dish.
Vanilla beans can be utilized to make vanilla sugar. This fragrant sugar may be used in place of sugar and vanilla extract in desserts, powdered sugar for sprinkling on cakes, and regular sugar for sweetening coffee. To make vanilla sugar, place two vanilla beans in a pound of granulated or powdered sugar and store in an airtight container for about a week. Remove the beans and store them for up to six months. The beans can be used again to make vanilla sugar.