Vanilla paste, Vanilla salt, and extract

Scones with vanilla salt

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Madacascar Bourbon-cured grade A vanilla beans
Madacascar Bourbon-cured grade A vanilla beans

A vanilla extract and vanilla sugar video and post was previously posted. I have kept experimenting in my kitchen with the wonderful flavor of vanilla. I decided to order more Madacascar Bourbon-Cured beans and I made a batch of Vanilla paste, some vanilla extract in Everclear, and some vanilla salt.

Vanilla Paste

I have been wanting to make vanilla paste for a long time. We use vanilla paste quite often and I ran out of my store bought vanilla paste. I read a lot of recipes. Many recipes have you mix the sugar with water or alcohol and the ground up vanilla beans and then add corn syrup or glucose. Corn Syrup and glucose are both invert sugars. The purpose of an invert sugar in the vanilla paste is to stop the sugar in the paste from re-crystallizing after it has been heated and cooled. I really wanted to make a version that did not use either corn syrup or glucose.

Eureka, I found a recipe on a website that said you could substitute lemon juice for the corn syrup. I decided to give it a go. You can find the recipe at Kara’s Couture Cakes website. I made a video of me making the paste, it turned out wonderful. Vanilla paste can be used just like vanilla extract (one for one substitution) and you will get the wonderful speckled bean seeds in your creation, along with execellent vanilla flavor. I love to use it in frostings, ice cream base, cheesecakes, etc. My beans were soaking in rum, prior to grinding them with the sugar, and it got very clumped up in the blender. I recommend making sure your beans are dry, and it should solve that issue.

Final results of vanilla paste

My paste was about 10 ounces when it was finished. I also was able to use the remaining bits in the pot to make chai. I did notice that the texture of the paste is slightly stringy, I attribute that to the remaining pectin in the beans (vanilla beans must be cured to have the vanilla flavor we love, the curing/drying process converts the starches and pectin to sugar in the bean). Once the paste was cooled, I noticed it did separate a little bit. I am not overly concerned with that, I just stir it up before using it. If you follow a recipe that includes xanthan gum, that will help with emulsifying it.

Finished vanilla paste
Finished vanilla paste.

Vanilla Extract using Everclear

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I have a jar of vanilla extract brewing using Madacascar Bourbon-cured Vanilla beans in Vodka, a jar in White Rum, and I decided to try them in Everclear to compare the different results. Everclear is a brand name of a high proof grain alcohol. The FDA regulations require a minimum alcohol content of 35% for vanilla extract, that equals 70 proof. You do not want higher than 100 proof for extracting, as it can damage the compounds you want in the extraction. Therefore, with Everclear you must dilute it. They make several proofs of Everclear. The one in my local store was the 151 proof (equal to 75.5% alcohol). To dilute it you use distilled water. I mixed it 1 part Everclear to 1 part distilled water. That will give me 75.5 proof or 37.75% alcohol. That is perfect for extracting vanilla.

I like to label my jars of extract with the type of bean, the date started and the alcohol used. This vanilla brewing journal is great to keep track of all my batches of extract. I found it on Amazon (affiliate link). I like this journal as it allows me to figure out the cost per batch of extract as well as the cost per ounce. This batch came out to $2.95 an ounce, which is less than a third of the price of the double strength extract I purchased (high-quality supplier).

Must dilute the Everclear with Distilled water

I mixed the Everclear with the distilled water and let it sit for approximately thirty minutes. There is a chemical reaction that occurs when you mix the alcohol and water, it will turn cloudy and a bit of small bubbles. You want to let that subside before you pour it over your vanilla beans.

I did a double fold (strength) extract ratio of 6 ounces of beans to 3 cups (24 ounces by volume) of the alcohol mixture. The reason many recommend using Everclear is that it is flavorless. My reading says that Everclear will lose that “boozy” smell much quicker than the other alcohols used to extract. I will let it sit for at least 12 months and we will see how it compares to my other vanilla extracts. I did some online research and found a Gluten watchdog site that stated that the manufacturer of Everclear said it was made of corn, so I felt confident using it with our food allergies and Celiac.

Vanilla extract in diluted Everclear
Vanilla extract in diluted Everclear. The plastic lids I like to use are from Amazon.

Making Vanilla Salt

Vanilla salt is a delicious way to add a boost of flavor to many dishes. You don’t need much and it can be used in place of salt in a recipe. It is especially good in baked goods, ice cream base, sprinkled over a dutch baby or eggs. I just substitute it in any recipe where it calls for salt and I want that little bit of vanilla flavor. I have a post on making a perpetual jar of vanilla sugar by just sticking dried beans in a jar of sugar. You could make vanilla salt the same way, but it won’t be nearly as flavorful as this method. Since you use so little salt in a recipe or to finish a dish, I think this method works well.

The salt you use can make a difference

I use Celtic brand sea salt as my base, it is what I use for almost all my salt needs. I buy bulk 5 pound bags and have both course and fine salt. If you are local to Madison Heights, MI, you can pick it up from Healthy Traditions Network (The Metro-Detroit chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation) by calling their office (248-828-8494). I sometimes get mine from my Azure Standard buying club, if I can’t get to the HTN office. You can also find it on Amazon in the smaller bags.

Celtic sea salt is an unrefined sea salt. I dry my course salt on a tray in the toaster oven before I use it in a grinder or making vanilla salt, as it can be a little moist from the bag. Redmond Real Sea Salt is another good brand. My advice is to avoid iodized salt, it can have a lot of additives and has no trace minerals.

Really it is a simple process

Start by cutting off the ends of the vanilla beans, I used three beans. The end pieces of the beans go into my jar of vanilla sugar. Cut the beans into half-inch pieces and put them in a spice grinder (a coffee grinder I use only for spices). You can try a blender or food processor. I used the spice grinder since it wasn’t very much material, I think it is easier in the smaller grinder to get it pulverized. Pulsing the beans several times really helps get them ground up. I then add a couple handfuls of course sea salt to the grinder with the beans and continue to pulse. It should be pretty finely ground at that point.

I used about half of the mix, that was in the grinder, as my base . I put the mixture in a bowl and added some fine celtic sea salt. Make sure to mix thoroughly. I simply went by color to figure out how much fine salt to add. It will gain more flavor the longer it sits, so I didn’t want it to be too potent in the beginning. Two batches produced a little over a pint of fine vanilla salt and a small container of course vanilla salt, from my method.

Uses for vanilla salt

I used the fine vanilla salt when I made some Gluten-free sourdough scones with dried blueberries and white chocolate chips . I used the vanilla salt in place of the salt in the recipe and sprinkled a tiny bit of the vanilla salt and some vanilla sugar on the tops after the egg wash, before baking. The recipe for the scones came from the Gluten-Free Sourdough class I took through Sourdough Schoolhouse (I highly recommend that class…I have no financial interest in it at all, just really learned a lot from the class).

I am going to try adding some to my Gluten-free Dutch Baby recipe, the next time I make it. It would be wonderful added to hot chocolate mix too. I think this will become a staple in my house, it is easy to make and really gives a great pop of flavor to whatever you use it for.

Blueberry-white chocolate chip gluten-free sourdough scones made with vanilla salt.  Vanilla salt in jars and some vanilla beans.
Blueberry-white chocolate chip gluten-free sourdough scones made with vanilla salt. Vanilla salt in jars and some vanilla beans.
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