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Recipes Section

Make your own real vanilla essence

Ideal for that personalised gift and a great gourmet addition to your own cooking.

Vanilla essence - our natural essence compared to imitation essence

You compare - our essence is on the left .

For anyone on a tight budget, real Vanilla Essence is way off their limit but as I said way back at the start, some extravagances are actually affordable, when you make your own. At first this may seem expensive but when you see how it's done, how much it makes and how strong the resulting essence is, compared to the bought imitation, you will agree it is well worth while.

A bundle of dried vanilla beans

A bundle of dried vanilla beans

This is one of those great homespun present ideas that they will love, because this essence cannot be bought in the shops - the perfect gift! I met a couple who were doing this and selling it along with other products they made at home, in their market stall. They said that a quite few customers had come back for a second bottle.

The good thing about this recipe is, you recycle the vanilla beans. They are expensive to buy so it feels great to make use of the parts that would normally end up as compost.


  • First we need the steeping alcohol - 300mls of whiskey, brandy, vodka or rum. Ouzo is not suitable because the strong anise aroma will clash with the vanilla. In this case I'm going to be shrewd and use some Bundaberg Rum. It is naturally brown and the colour will make the final essence look even stronger to compliment the stronger vanilla aroma (the result will be far stronger than you will buy in the supermarket).

  • For a steeping bottle I'm using an old olive oil bottle that I have thoroughly washed out and dried in the oven. This will make the bulk essence which will then be rebottled into the decorative bottles.

  • The Vanilla beans came from a Lebanese nut and spices shop (and were half the price of the ones I bought at the supermarket!). I also have some strips left after I removed the seeds and pulp to flavour a rice pudding a while ago. At that price, I wasn't going to throw them away! I had slit them open, scraped out the seeds and all that was left was the strips of outer skin. In total I have the skins of three vanilla beans and three whole ones.

small glass bottles for essence

I found these small clear bottles, ideal for essences and essential oils and coloured them with glass paint from the art shop.


Personally, if you are going to go to this effort, Get hold of a good bottle to store them in. Think outside the box here. They need to be small but attractive. I saw some amazing hand decorated glass bottles that looked like they came out of a Marrakesh Souq. They were new and empty, so no chance of any tainting odour but a lot more expensive that I was wanting to pay. The solution was to put them on layby - I didn't need them for two months anyway but they would make stunning Christmas gifts. Poke around in the $2, second hand and reject shops, you'll be amazed what you'll find. Ideally you want dark coloured glass bottles because this reduces the ultraviolet light which deteriorates most essential oils.

  1. Slit the whole beans long ways and put the whole lot into the bottle when it has cooled. Top it up with spirits (rum in my case). Screw on the lid and leave it to steep. Tomorrow and every day after for 6 weeks, give the bottle a shake. (I put it on top of the fridge where I will see it regularly, to remind me).

  2. Let it settle, undisturbed for three weeks and decant off the essence into your decorative gift bottles

  3. Refill the steeping bottle with liquor and add another bean as the essence weakens. If after three weeks you feel the essence is not strong enough, simply let it steep for another week or so. The steeping time will vary with the type of vanilla bean, the age of the bean, the alcohol content of the liquor and the ambient room temperature.

If you are looking for vanilla beans, try your Asian grocery shops, they often stock them at a price far lower than your supermarkets. Alternatively you can buy them on line.

Green vanilla beans

Magic beans
Did you know that the Vanilla bean is the only foodstuff that we get from the entire Orchid species?
The vanilla history makes interesting reading and begins way back with the Incas.
Find out more at the Vanilla pages in the Herbs section

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Bar - Gold bar with Granny Smith Apple


Is it worth it?
Yes, aside from the quantity you make, it tastes much better and just look at the difference!

Vanilla essence - our natural essence compared to imitation essence

You compare - our essence is on the left .

Cleaning out the fridge - a quick wipe with vanilla essence on a tissue will freshen up your fridge, without the smell tainting any food. The same goes for the microwave.

Painting the house and don't want that smell of fresh paint? These days we use acrylic paints inside our homes simply add a tablespoon of vanilla essence for every 4 litres of paint and mix in well. The house will smell fantastic.

As a perfume - add a small dab of vanilla essence to each wrist. People find the smell of vanilla relaxing.

Apetite suppressant - If you take a whiff of vanilla before eating, the smell can decieve the mind that you have already eaten something and your apetite will be reduced of vanilla relaxing.

Insect repellent - Although we love the fragrance of vanilla, most insects don't including many that bite so it makes a very pleasant insect repellent that doesn't burn sensitive skin and body areas like the citronella based insect repellents do.

Bar - Gold bar with Granny Smith Apple

Basket of Fresh herbs

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