This is an easy way to get most out of vanilla pods. Depending on where they are bought they can be quite expensive. I've found that the cheapest place to buy these is at the Asian Supermarket, they're normally around £1.50 for three compared to over £1 for one in any normal supermarket.
I love vanilla, can't get enough of the stuff and when given the option always prefer to use pods instead of essence or extract, although I will use these for day to day things.
I use vanilla to flavour pavlova, whipped cream, custards and ice cream.
The first time I use a vanilla pod I will split it open lengthwise and remove the seeds, using these to flavour a liquid, particularly ice cream, I like the little flecks of black studded through the creamy white of the cream. Some people prefer they're vanilla ice cream to be pristine white, I am not one of those people.
I will then store the pod in an airtight container until the next time I need it which will again be to flavour a liquid. I most often use the pod this time to flavour a cooked custard, adding the pod to the milk or cream in the pan and allowing it to infuse while the custard cooks and thickens. Once the pod has done it's work I quickly rinse it under the tap and leave it somewhere warm to dry out a little.
Once the pod has dried out, measure out enough caster (superfine) sugar for around four recipes, normally about 500g in my house. Whatever your favourite recipes are, the things you make most often and preferably a recipe which contains vanilla.
Add vanilla pod to a blender and pulse until finely chopped, once it doesn't seem to be getting any smaller, add the sugar and pulse again for another 30 seconds or so to distribute the vanilla. Store in an airtight container and use in your favourite cake and cookie recipes in place of regular sugar and vanilla. Feel free to use half and half, vanilla sugar and regular sugar for a just a warm hint of flavour. This can also be used to sweeten coffee, fruit and homemade hot chocolate.
Six or more uses from one vanilla pod at the price I pay brings it down to roughly 8p per recipe. I can live with that, especially when I get a beautifully flavoured dessert.
Times are a bit lean at the minute and the first thing sacrificed is usually desserts. Sometimes a little of what you fancy is good for the heart and can make you feel so much less "hard done by" in times of a tightening budget. A great way to use this sugar and one of my favourite recipes, is rice pudding. I'll be posting a recipe for this very soon.