Make your own perpetual vanilla extract

Almost every cook knows that vanilla is a kitchen staple – but boy, it’s expensive! Vanilla is currently more expensive than gold, which is why it needs to be used carefully. I’ve also been lucky enough in the past to see how vanilla is grown and harvested, and having seen the process, I now fully understand why it’s expensive!

While I’m all for supporting the growers, sometimes we have to be prudent with what we have, so we don’t waste unnecessary money or  resources. Sarah Wilson is well known for her ability to squeeze every erg out of every product, and this recipe, from her latest book, Simplicious Flow, is a fantastic way of keeping your shopping bill down to a minimum, while still being able to use all the products you need for your favourite recipes. What’s not to love about that?

While A-grade vanilla pods are fantastic, don’t be afraid to use B-grade vanilla pods for this recipe, and you’ll get two or three runs from each pod.

Challenge: Make Perpetual Vanilla Extract

Vanilla pods have always been a precious (and expensive) culinary friend. This is partly because production is incredibly labour intensive – workers have to hand-pollinate the flowers of the orchids, then cure and dry the pods for 3–6 months. Also, a combo of dodgy farm practices and extreme weather events means wild price fluctuations (you might have noticed?). Cyclone Enawo in Madagascar in early 2017 saw prices skyrocket by 700% and when I wrote this book, high-quality vanilla powder (which I’ve often advocated and used) cost $16 per teaspoon.

Ingredients

  • 3 whole vanilla pods
  • ½ cup vodka (or bourbon, brandy or rum)

Method

Split the vanilla pods lengthways and cut them so they fit into a small, thin bottle or jar (a caper jar is perfect) with a couple of centimetres clear at the top. Add the booze, seal, shake and store in the dark.

Whenever you see it in your cupboard, give it a good shake (a few times a week is ideal). It will be ready to use in 4 weeks. The flavours will only become more complex over time, so when the alcohol level drops below the pods, top it up and let it brew another few weeks before using again.

Recipe reproduced with permission from I Quit Sugar: Simplicious Flow by Sarah Wilson, Published by Macmillan, RRP $ 45.00, Photography by Rob Palmer