Vanilla is such an essential (and wonderful) ingredient in the Holiday Season, that it’s hard to imagine baking without it! Did you know that vanilla pods are the fruit of a climbing orchid? When they are freshly harvested, they actually look like green beans. The vanilla spice plant itself, originates from the rain-forests of Mexico and Guatemala and evidence shows that the Aztecs knew the secret of the vanilla pods! Only when they are fermented vanilla pods develop their distinctive aroma and taste. The complete drying process by the way, can take up to four weeks. Vanilla – either the scraped out seeds or the whole pod – is the classic spice for many desserts, egg dishes, creams, cakes, cookies and compotes. It’s known to harmonize perfectly with chocolate, cocoa, cinnamon, saffron and cloves. It also brings an interesting taste to fish, meat, poultry and vegetable dishes.
One excellent use for the empty vanilla pod is to add it to sugar or salt. Simply put the pod into a glass jar with sugar or salt and close it tightly. After one week you will have an aromatic treat of vanilla sugar or vanilla salt.