Vanilla is one of the most popular spices in the world, particularly for those who enjoy baking. There’s a huge difference between the flavour of artificial vanilla extract most often sold in grocery stores and the real thing, made with vanilla beans and alcohol. Similarly, vanilla sugar has a lovely, subtle aroma and flavour that is ideal for custards, whipped cream and so much more. Since these items need a few weeks to ‘steep’, don’t leave your preparation until the last minute. Either of these – or a set of both sugar and extract – would be much-appreciated holiday gifts for anyone who likes to cook or eat.
2 whole vanilla beans
8 ounces (250 mL or 1 cup) bourbon, vodka or light rum
- Slice the vanilla beans lengthwise and then pry them open so the seeds inside are exposed. With the tip of a spoon, scrape the seeds out of the beans and add them to a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
- Put the scraped bean pods in the jar (cutting to fit, if necessary) and top with the alcohol. If making a larger batch, you can add the scraped seeds and beans directly to the bottle of alcohol.
- Let sit for 2 – 4 weeks, shaking every few days. You will notice the alcohol getting darker as it takes on the vanilla flavour.
- Remove the pods and strain the liquid through several layers of cheesecloth, then pour into smaller bottles for gifting.
1 whole vanilla bean
2 cups (400 grams) granulated, cane or turbinado sugar
- Measure the sugar and pour it into an airtight container (a clean, dry glass jar works well).
- Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and then pry it open so the seeds inside are exposed. With the tip of a spoon, scrape the seeds out of the bean and add them to the sugar. Stir to combine well.
- Add the scraped bean pod (cut it into 2 – 3 pieces if need be to make it fit) to the sugar mixture. Cover tightly and let sit for 2 – 3 weeks, shaking occasionally.
- Remove the bean pod and transfer the sugar into smaller, airtight containers for gift giving.
- Use the vanilla sugar in place of plain sugar in your favourite recipes.