Vanilla sugar has a deeper flavor than vanilla extracts or essences, somehow more fruity and spicy to my tastebuds, more interesting. Sure, you can buy vanilla sugar. But making it at home is easy, and costs a lot less. The results can last for months by the clever continual addition of sugar. You’ll have a generous supply to use in drinks and desserts, like hot chocolate and blancmange.
Make sure that the vanilla bean pod is as moist (even sticky!) as possible. More moisture means more fragrance. If you can obtain plump pods, as opposed to completely flat pods, that’s great, as that implies more seeds and therefore more surface area to spread the flavor.
I prefer the old scrape with a knife process, since my attempts at mincing via the food processor result in the pods sticking to bottom, uncut, and powdered sugar. The method below naturally leads to vanilla perfumed hands, a pleasant side effect.
- Approximately 2 cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean pod
- Put about 1/2 cup of sugar into a 1-pint glass jar. A jar used for canning or honey, with a tightly fitting lid, would be ideal.
- Using a sharp paring knife, slit the vanilla bean pod along its length. If possible, make the cut on the top, narrow edge, as this makes opening the pod easier.
- Unfold the pod along the slit you made. Scrape about a quarter of its seeds into the jar (tiny things, they look like a dark paste if the pod is moist). Pour in another 1/2 cup of sugar. Repeat until you’ve scraped out as many of the seeds as you can. But don’t worry about getting every last bit. Just don’t throw away the pod!
- Chop or mince the pod and toss into the jar. Top off the jar until there’s only about a 1/2 inch air gap. Tightly close the jar, and shake shake shake until the vanilla bits are distributed throughout the sugar. It doesn’t need to be uniform. It will end up looking kind of greyish with dark brown bits here and there.
- Let the vanilla sugar “infuse” for at least two days before using. I prefer to wait at least a week. To use, sift the sugar with a tea strainer. I toss the vanilla pod chunks back into the jar, and when the jar is a third or half empty, refill it with more sugar. I can do this about four or five times, with losing very little of the vanilla aroma.