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Lindsay-Jean is a Community Editor at Food52.
Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place - but not in the refrigerator or freezer.
I would wrap the individual pods in plastic wrap if you have broken the airtight seal on the container they came in. This will prevent them from drying out. Vanilla pods should be pliable - not brittle. Then store in a cool dark place - not the refrigerator.
Both beans and extract should be stored in dark brown glass bottles. Light and cold temperatures have a distinct negative impact on the 200+ compounds in vanilla. Also, condensation on cold beans can promote mold (not to be confused with vanillin crystals which can sometimes form on the beans after prolonged exposure to dry air).
Some plastic wraps (those made from PVC) are permeable to air and won't even slow down moisture transfer to any appreciable extent. You can prove this to yourself by wrapping the beans, letting them sit for a few hours, and then taking a whiff. That's your flavor disappearing. If you can't find a brown bottle, use clear glass and keep it in a closed cupboard with your other herbs and spices. Alternatively, wrap the beans in a sheet of Press 'n Seal, pressing the sticky side to sticky side and then wrap that in a layer of aluminum foil.
I put them in a glass jar, then add about an inch of rum (or whiskey or whatever) and store the jar in a closed cupboard. The liquor keeps them moist. When the beans are gone, the remaining liquid is excellent vanilla "extract."
I keep them in my vanilla extract bottle, or add vanilla extract to the narrow Nielsen Massey bottle that I purchase them in. The extract gets more powerful, and the beans stay moist.
We always stored them in sugar in a tight jar and the sugar gets a wonderful aroma too. I did not have an issue with them drying out- even in Colorado. Not that I have any idea if this is scientifically good/bad for the beans...it's just what we do.
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