posts · store cupboard

making vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, vanilla bean paste and vanilla salt

Vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world due to a labor-intensive and time-consuming process and as a result, most of the vanilla flavouring consumed today is a synthetic imitation of the real spice. Vanilla has a distinctive flavour (Vanillin), but is also noted for more complex aromas which are described as… honey and caramel-like, smokey, earthy, woody and floral, naming a few… all which contribute richness, warmth and depth of flavour to almost any food that vanilla is added too! Having a continuous supply of pure vanilla flavour at home for all your culinary needs is easy… few ingredients are required… with a little patience thrown in!

Making your own vanilla extract, whole vanilla bean paste, vanilla sugar, vanilla infused olive oil and vanilla salt requires the use of whole vanilla beans… purchased at supermarket prices would make all the above costly! Bulk buying different varieties and grades of vanilla beans (Madagascar, Tahitian, Indonesian, Indian, and Mexican) on-line from a reliable source like Beanilla or Amazon is much more cost-effective! The Island of Bali in Indonesia has been a holiday destination for our family over the years and I have always brought back a supply of whole vanilla beans which always get put to good use in the kitchen! Regardless of where your vanilla beans come from, they all should be soft and pliable with a dark skin.

Because of cultural and religious backgrounds some people will not use pure vanilla extract in cooking and baking as it contains alcohol, which is prohibited! Being sensitive to this issue using the home-made vanilla sugar and pastes means that pure vanilla flavour can be enjoyed by all. The recipes below are only guides and can all be taken with a pinch of vanilla... I mean salt! Feel free to experiment ( or check other recipes) with the strength of vanilla flavour in each recipe… taste is personal!

Vanilla Extract: Pure vanilla extract must contain 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of liquid and contain 35% alcohol… according to US Food and Drug Administration regulations! So rounding that equation roughly (you can be more precise if you like), would mean almost one ounce of vanilla beans are required for each cup of liquid! Depending on the grade and moisture content of the vanilla beans, you might use( approximately)  7 to 10 vanilla beans per cup (250ml) of liquid and this is for a single strength vanilla extract! With the above in mind…  some recipes have suggested 1 or 2 vanilla beans per cup of liquid and in my experience this will not yield a strong vanilla extract! As alcohol is needed to extract the vanilla flavour use vodka (min 35%), as it is a neutral spirit!

Home-made Vanilla Extract


  • 1oz (25g) vanilla beans (approx. 7 to 10)(a few more if you like)
  • 250ml vodka
  • 6 months of patience

How to make: With the tip of a sharp knife, slit the vanilla bean lengthwise down the middle, exposing all the tiny seeds. Place the vanilla beans into a clean sterilized  bottle or jar, pour in the vodka to completely cover all the vanilla beans. You might need to half the vanilla beans, depending on the size of bottle or jar being used.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and shake, this will release some of the tiny vanilla seeds and  help the flavour extraction process. Sore in a cool dark cupboard and for the first week shake the contents of the bottle each day for the first week. Afterwards shake the bottle once a week for the next month or every now and then if you remember!  Leave to mature for 6 months before using, during this time the alcohol smell and taste will mellow and the vanilla flavour will develop!

Tip: When I need some vanilla beans as a garnish… remove a vanilla bean from the bottle of vanilla extract, dry with some kitchen paper, cut into thin strips and place on top of desserts, ice-cream, cupcakes and also add some to mulled wines!

Adding more vanilla beans and topping up with more vodka to a dwindling (all ready matured)  supply of vanilla extract is not something I do… I prefer to start the whole process again using new vanilla beans.

Vanilla Sugar


  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthways
  • 500g caster sugar

How to make: Simply place the 2 vanilla beans and the sugar into a clean sterilized  jar, making sure the vanilla beans are covered completely with the sugar. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and leave the sugar and vanilla to infuse for about a week before using. The sugar will be perfumed with a subtle flavour of vanilla. Overtime the vanilla beans become dry and brittle so you can remove them from the jar, replace with a new vanilla bean and top up with more sugar, if liked.


Concentrated Vanilla Sugar


  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 100g granulated sugar

How to make: Cut the vanilla beans into small pieces using scissors and place into a small food processor along with the sugar. Process until finely ground, then pass through a fine sieve, return any bits that did not pass through the sieve back into the spice grinder. Repeat the process again or until all the vanilla and sugar has been finely ground. Place into a clean sterilized jar and cover with a tight-fitting lid, leaving the vanilla and sugar to infuse for a week before using. This sugar will have a strong vanilla flavour which you can dilute (the flavour) by mixing a couple of teaspoons of concentrated vanilla sugar with other sugars… icing sugar, brown sugar or caster sugar, for an instant vanilla sugar.

Pure Vanilla Powder: Some of the vanilla beans that I had were a tad on the dry side and not as pliable as before which makes them ideal for grinding into a fairly fine powder, which I used for the vanilla bean paste and vanilla salt!  Cut the required amount of vanilla beans into small pieces using scissors and place into a spice grinder. Grind the vanilla beans into a fine powder, then pass through a fine sieve, return any bits that did not pass through the sieve back into the spice grinder. Repeat the process again or until all the vanilla beans have been finely ground.

Whole Vanilla Bean Paste


  • 50g sugar (use vanilla sugar if you have already made some)
  • 50ml water
  • 1/4 teaspoon corn syrup (optional)(helps stop sugar crystals forming)
  • 4 vanilla beans, finely ground

How to make: Combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a small saucepan and place over a low heat, stir with a wooden spoon until all the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring the syrup to a boil for about a minute. Remove from the heat and cool. Pour the cooled syrup into a clean sterilized jar and stir in the powdered vanilla beans. Cover with a lid and store in the refrigerator, leave for a couple of days before using. Use within six weeks. If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract use 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste instead.

Vanilla Salt


  • 4 tablespoons of gourmet sea salt, Fleur De Sel de Camargue or Maldon
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla powder

How to make: Mix salt and vanilla powder together and place into a small sterilized jar and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Store in an airtight container leaving the salt and vanilla to infuse for one week before using.

Add a little vanilla saltness to your food… use as a garnish or sprinkle over foods just before serving on nuts, caramel flavored sweets, cookies, ice cream, macarons, scrambled eggs, quiche,canapes, grilled prawns and scallops are just a few ideas!

 Do you make your own vanilla extract?  Have you any great ideas for using whole vanilla beans?
food + drink · posts · store cupboard

doughnut peach conserve

A miscommunication and two food shoppers meant a glut of doughnut peaches over filled our fruit bowls. I absolutely love eating these doughnut shaped peaches… to me they are little flattened pillows of sweetness with a wonderful peachy perfume. If you need a sweet fix… eat one of these doughnut peaches but you might find it is hard to stop at one. Less fuzzy skinned than other varieties of peach, the is flesh pale, sweet, juicy and low on acidity. Because of their shape, these peaches are also called Saturn or even UFO’s.

With a big bowl full of peaches sitting in front of me I thought to make a homely jar of chunky conserve,  the urge to start  skinning some peaches came upon me!

With a big bowlful of peaches sitting in front of me I decided to make a jar of chunky conserve. Making home-made conserve or jam is not something I do on a regular basis so using ordinary household utensils for the process suits fine. My mother made jam on many occasions with no fancy equipment and I have vivid memories of the big bubbling pot and the wonderful smell of jam filling our kitchen. The chilled saucers in the freezer ready and waiting for the wrinkle test. All the saved glass jars lined up on the kitchen table waiting to be filled with the hot sticky jam. Pressing circles of waxed paper over the surface (this is where I would help) of the jam, then covering the top of the jar with cellophane and securing with thick brown elastic bands. Once the jam had cooled a flick test with the fingers would be preformed on the cellophane covers, confirming the covers were taut and a proper seal had taken place.

Conserves contain bigger and more whole pieces of fruit than jams, both contain lots of sugar which acts as a preservative, enabling long storage of home-made conserves and jams without the need for refrigeration. As I am not interested in storing jam for months on end in a cupboard, making preserves with a high ratio of fruit and less sugar is my preference… hence this home-made conserve needs to be refrigerated and consumed within three to four weeks… no problem there! A delicious tasting peachy conserve, flavored with orange and a hint of clove… with a lovely spoonable consistency.

Doughnut Peach Conserve


  • 500g doughnut peaches (choose firm fruit)
  • zest one small orange, afterwards segment the orange taking care not to include any pith or membrane
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (preserves the colour of the fruit and increases the pectin content)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of home-made vanilla extract, or store-bought

You will need: One 450ml jar with a lid or use a few smaller volume jars, which will need to be sterilized! Some waxed or silicon paper cut into circles to fit the appropriate jars!

Removing the skin from peaches: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Also fill a large bowl with cold water and throw in some ice cubes. Cut a shallow cross (only into the skin) on the base of each peach with a sharp knife. Place the peaches into the boiling water for about 20 seconds. With the help of a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches quickly into the cold water bath (stops the peaches from cooking) for about 30 seconds. Remove and skin the peaches. Unfortunately all the lovely colour disappears with the skins and the peaches will look somewhat insipid!

This next step is completely optional but wanting to put a bit of blush back into the conserve I gathered the skins of the peaches and gave them a good squeeze over a bowl, collecting about a tablespoon and a half of pinkish coloured liquid (with a bit of flavour)  which I incorporate when making the conserve!

How to make:

Cut each peach into quarters and discard the stone. Cut the orange segments into small pieces.

Add the peaches, juice from the skins (if using) orange zest, orange segments, sugar, lemon juice and cloves into a wide low sided thick-bottomed stainless steel saucepan. Gently mix everything together and let the contents stand undisturbed for about 15 minutes, this process helps extract the juice and also firms up the pieces of fruit enabling chunks of fruit to remain whole in the cooked conserve.

Heat the contents of the saucepan gently while stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Raise the heat and cook steadily (not a rolling boil) until  the fruit is soft and setting point (see note below) has been reached. Take care that the jam does not catch on the bottom of the saucepan and burn! This will take around 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow the conserve to cool for about 10 minutes, stir in the vanilla extract, remove and discard the cloves.

Spoon the peach conserve into a hot sterilized jar.  Press a circle of waxed or silicon paper onto the surface of the conserve and cover with lids.  Store the completely cooled jar in the refrigerator.

How to know when your preserve has reached setting point: Usually I follow the wrinkle test when making a conserve or jam. Spoon a teaspoon of the boiling conserve onto one of the cold saucers from the freezer, let sit for about a minute until cold, then push with your finger… if the preserve wrinkles it has reached setting point, if not, boil for a couple of minutes and test again.

Wonderful delicious ways to use and enjoy Doughnut Peach Conserve:

  • Mix a spoonful of peach conserve thorough a pot of home-made natural yogurt or store-bought, makes a delicious real fruit flavoured yogurt.
  • Place a small chunk of creamy blue cheese or soft goats cheese on a cracker and top with a little blob of peach conserve… I love this combination!
  • Serve the peach conserve as an accompaniment to pan cooked duck breast for a quick fruit sauce.
  • For a quick fruit topping, spoon some peach conserve over plain cheese cake or some vanilla  ice cream.
  • Peach conserve served with warmed croissants, scones, a nice chunk of home-made brown bread or french toast… simple but all delicious!
  • Replace the blackcurrant jam with peach conserve in this Welsh Cheese Cakes recipe.
What is your favourite flavour of conserve or jam?