Vanilla sugar is a neat twist on plain old granulated sugar. It'll boost your morale every time you lift the lid on the pot or dish. It's very simple, too. Another wonderful benefit is that it makes a very nice gift for a favorite cook -- or even just someone who likes trying out new foods.
It's wonderful in coffee or tea, makes a nice sprinkle on cookies or homemade donuts (or cereal), and it'll keep almost forever.
Basic Vanilla Sugar Recipe
2 vanilla beans
2 cups of sugar
Split the vanilla beans and add them to the sugar mixture in a glass or plastic container. Shake. Seal the container and let sit in a warm (not hot), dark spot for three to five days (although the taste will improve if you leave it two to three weeks), shaking a couple of times a day.
After using fresh vanilla beans to make sugar, you can reuse them in recipes. For stronger flavor (and if you don't mind the seeds -- which I don’t btw) scrape seeds into the sugar before shaking. This will use up the bean, so you won't be able use it again except for sugar. Some people also grind the bean and sugar in a coffee grinder. It creates a rich flavor that intensifies over time but can look a little muddy.
You can make vanilla granulated sugar, vanilla brown sugar and vanilla raw sugar, although for the last two, remove the bean after curing because the increased moisture can lead to mold growth -- and keep the sugar mixture in the refrigerator after you've cured it.
Vanilla beans are pricey, but you can use them up to three times in a sugar mix if you're careful to reserve some of the seeds each time.
How to Store Vanilla Beans
Seal beans in plastic wrap and place them in a plastic bag or jar until ready to use.
Don't leave them in the sugar indefinitely unless you don't plan on using them again. They'll dry out eventually.
Don't store beans in the fridge, although I'll admit that sounds counter intuitive. The damp, cool environment in the refrigerator encourages mold growth.
If you plan on storing beans for a while, air them out occasionally by unwrapping them and placing them on your countertop for a few minutes every couple of weeks or so.
Stored beans may produce crystals. That's not a bad thing. They're edible, and you can still use the bean, but it's best to do so soon after detecting crystal formations on the surface.
If vanilla beans do dry out, you can sometimes rehydrate them by soaking them in water for a few hours. If they get moldy, pitch them (sorry).