Q. I was just given a pound of fresh vanilla beans and even though I cook and bake a lot, a pound will last a long time. What is the best way to store them so they stay fresh?
Just send them to us, and we'll dole them out as appropriate. The same is true for any huge allotments of truffles, foie gras, top-quality chocolate, or bluefin tuna that unexpectedly come your way. Just think of us as the Ochef National Food Bank.
If that idea doesn't appeal to you as much as to us (with shipping costs being what they are), you can follow one of two courses. Several reference books we checked suggest you wrap your vanilla beans tightly in plastic, place them in an airtight glass container and refrigerate them for as long as six months.
"Au contraire," say the folks at Nielsen-Massey Vanillas Inc. They say you should never refrigerate vanilla beans, as it is likely they will sprout mold after a few months. Stored air-tight at room temperature, however, the beans will stay fresh for at least two years surely enough time for you to savor and use up a pound of beans.
If we were in your shoes, in the interest of saving all that room in the refrigerator, keeping your beans for fresh for two years instead of six months, and not eating a lot of vanilla mold, we'd follow the advice of the people at Nielsen-Massey.