Vanilla is such an extraordinary ingredient.
As basic as that little black dress in your closet, it can be pulled out time and again, bringing class, flair, and comfort every single time you wear it. Vanilla’s flavor and fragrance have come to embody comfort in kitchens worldwide.
However, given its popularity, it has been overused in unfortunate ways, like bad imitation extract and exaggerated aromatic imitators. No wonder it has tried to be replicated though, vanilla comes with a high price tag.
But here is the thing: you can make a vanilla bean go a long way. You can extend its exuberant properties and multiply its uses by flavoring other basic ingredients with it.
My favorites are salt, sugar, simple syrup, oil, and vinegar.
In turn, the resulting vanilla salt, vanilla sugar, vanilla syrup, vanilla oil, and vanilla vinegar can be used for long periods of time and in so many ways.
What’s more, making these vanilla products will not only enrobe your kitchen in its fragrance (and romance if you are aware of the legends that surround its birth), but it will make for memorable gifts as well.
As far as what to use them on, imagination is the name of the game!
I have sprinkled vanilla salt on fresh tomatoes as well as peaches ready to be grilled. Vanilla sugar is decadent baked on pies, in sweet crepes, and in tea or coffee. The vanilla vinegar and oil make fresh salads shine and cooked vegetables go nuts. Last time I baked baby potatoes, I drizzled on some vanilla oil and spooned a bit of Mexican cream on top. The simple syrup is marvelous for everything from drinks, to desserts and especially drizzled on ice cream.
p.s. Use sterilized glass jars (or run in the dishwasher) with tight-fitting lids.
p.s. 2… Feel free to double up the amount of salt, sugar, simple syrup, oil or vinegar with just a single bean.
Vanilla Bean Vinegar
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- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 vanilla bean
- Pour the vinegar into a small glass jar.
- Using a small sharp knife cut the vanilla bean and then split the halves lengthwise. Open each half and scrape the seeds from top to bottom into the vinegar, as thoroughly as you can. Add the vanilla pieces to the vinegar as well.
- Put the lid on the bottle and close tight. Shake it for a good 30 seconds. Leave it at room temperature. For the first couple days, shake it a couple times a day. Let it sit for at least a week before using.