Seasonal Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Sugar

24 Nov

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

These make great little holiday gifts and require next to no counterspace or time to prepare!

With the holidays upon us, it’s a great time to take advantage of seasonal sales on items you might not normally find at the grocery store, or at least wouldn’t find at a good price the rest of the year.

One such score is the highly coveted vanilla bean, which is normally $10.99 per bean at my

A vanilla bean straight from the jar.

 local grocery store, but was on sale last week for only $5.99! Red Kitchen Project reader Cheryl reports that her sister recently scored an unheard of TEN FOR $10 sale on vanilla beans at a Costco in Northern Illinois. So the good deals are out there to be had this season!

If you aren’t able to procure one at a discount grocery store (look in seasonal items and special promo aisles), you can

Slice the bean lengthwise and peel away the outer skin.

often get better deals by ordering them online anyway than by going to a regular grocery. (Check out sites like this for deals on many different varieties for as low as $3.75 per 5 beans! Cut down on shipping by finding a friend or two to order with!)

Vanilla beans are usually sold folded up to fit into regular spice jars.

One of the most popular uses for the vanilla bean is vanilla sugar, which can be used in everything from coffee or flavored milk to cookies and other delicious baked goods.

Vanilla sugar is also a cinch to prepare and can be done in just a few minutes. I actually prepared mine last night during the commerical breaks while I was watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory on CBS. 🙂

There’s really no comparison to baking with real vanilla sugar, and one bean will make several cups of flavored sugar, so the cost really isn’t that high at all in the end for making your own, particularly if you are packaging it as stocking stuffers or other small gifts during the holiday season.

Scrape, scrape, scrape!

Begin by harvesting the raw vanilla. This is done by slicing the bean lengthwise, unrolling the sides, and scraping the inside matter out with a short, serrated knife.

The inside of a good vanilla bean should be very oily and gritty as you harvest it. It smells very strong, kind of like booze, but in a yummy way. The vanilla will probably stick to your knife as you scrape, or make your fingertips greasy at the very least.

Place 4 or 4-1/2 cups granulated sugar in a bowl large enough to stir in.

After scraping the bean, the vanilla will probably still be in small chunks. That’s okay, because it will disperse into tiny bits once it’s put into the granulated sugar.

It's okay if a few larger "flecks" of vanilla remain.

Pour 4 to 4-1/2 cups granulated white sugar into a large measuring cup or lipped bowl. Add the vanilla scrapings to the sugar. If any tidbits are sticking to your knife, you can easily dip the knife into the sugar and out again to remove them.

Once all of the vanilla has been transferred to the sugar, it won’t look like much at first. That’s okay. You can either mix it well with a spoon, or place the sugar mixture into a blender and turn it on to create a finer sugar blend. Make sure any little chunks of bean skin are removed.

If a pocket of vanilla doesn’t blend out completely, you can use your fingers to crush it into the sugar. It’s okay if a few small bits don’t break down all the way, as long as they won’t be a problem in whatever you’re making out of the sugar later.

Once the vanilla has been incorporated into the sugar, you can either pour the sugar into a large canister to store (in which case you can always throw the whole vanilla rind on top to add extra flavor during the “curing” period), or divide the sugar into smaller Mason jars. I used 4 half-pint (8-ounce) glass jars to store mine. A jar funnel was

Fill the Mason jars all the way up to the top rim, as settling will occur over time.

 particularly handy in keeping my counter clear of all those stray granules, but you can also just use a curled piece of paper with some Scotch tape as a funnel if you don’t already have a wide-mouth funnel on hand.

If using small jars, make sure to tap down the sugar as you transfer it to reduce the amount of settling that will occur during the curing process.

Tightly cover each container. Allow to cure by storing undisturbed for at least 2 weeks before opening or using.

Caution: If you "gift" these, be prepared for repeat requests every Christmas!

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One Response to “Seasonal Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Sugar”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Cheap Recipe: Tasty, Wholesome Banana Bread for Toddlers (& Adults, too!) « The Red Kitchen Project - February 9, 2010

    […] (it’s okay to nuke it if it’s coming straight out of the fridge). Add 3/4 cup sugar (or homemade vanilla sugar!), toss in those banana chunks and start mashing. Cut shortening into small pats to mix more […]

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