Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Home-made Vanilla

Vanilla steeping in my cupboard.
Silence isn't always golden - around here it means if I don't get a post up it is because I'm running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Something I've been perfecting of late and in fact I did behead four roosters yesterday and put them in the crock pot ready in preparation for canning so I do know what I'm talking about.

My day today is rushed and I could really use a day off but I've got a couple boxes of pears to finish that couldn't be worked on because we waited for hours yesterday for a surgeon to finish an emergency surgery. When you have to travel such a long distance for anything, you don't want to have to come back a second time. My hubby hasn't had his colonoscopy yet and it's about time, he's fifty-three. That was the consult appointment. Then when we got home it was pick up our kinder gardener and the evening routine followed,which is a long one. We'd like this nuisance of a screening over before hunting season and if the scan is clean then it will be another ten years before he'll need one again. If you haven't had yours and your over fifty, join us. It just makes sense to screen for cancer. This is one of those silent ones where one in four are likely to have it and not know it.

But all that waiting in the next town over meant the pears just got a whole lot riper and today without fail they have to be canned. That is after our daughter comes to pick up the kids. Snuggle bum here doesn't want off Grandma's lap and is quite vocal about it so my later half of the day may be a mad dash to get things done.

So since not much new is being done around here to talk about, as I'm still gleaning from the garden to stay ahead of the deer and finishing canning the fruit. Though I did put a few bananas in the dryer as the price was right at the store. But you've waited long enough for me to update you on vanilla.
Though I've some vanilla doing it's thing in the cupboard , it is a long way's off from ready to use - middle of October. That meant I had to buy vanilla from the store, hopefully only one last time. While I was there, I took the time to read all the labels on the containers along with photographing one for your look see. Four ingredients, one being corn syrup. The same ingredients in all the other brands. Most of you know corn syrup, the way they make it now, isn't too good for you and you can even buy ketchup now without it. I do. So how come they put it in vanilla? That my research did not disclose other than to say it left a more pleasant after taste.

As you know I'm a research aholic so before I started this project I read up on the subject and found to my surprise that there are lots of kinds of vanilla. And here I thought vanilla was vanilla. I did know that all vanilla is imported because of the labor intensive necessity of hand pollinating every orchid. But there are a variety of kinds and uses beyond ice cream, cookies etc. to which I still don't have much knowledge on. At http://www.vanillagarlic.com/ I found his take on the varieties and how Stephen Block prefers to use them. For example Madagascar has a hint of tobacco, while Papua New Guinea has a subtle note of chocolate and red wine flavor, and Tahiti hints of licorice and figs. Then there is Tonga which reminds him of cherries and autumn and he recommends using this vanilla with fruits. While India is woodsy.
What would you use that in?

Since I never knew there was a difference in vanilla at all you know how little I thought about vanilla beyond artificial vanilla and real vanilla. Then last year I happened upon a blog discussing making vanilla. When I saw how extremely simple it was, I checked on the price of vanilla beans over the Internet and decided this was a must try for myself project. Don't be fouled by the price of vanilla beans at the grocery store. Most of way over prices and I suspect poor quality. I settled on trying two kinds of vanilla beans. The two I'd most likely use the most.
Mexican as it is smooth and creamy and is recommended to enhance milk products. Whip cream and vanilla ice cream definitely fit in that category and I use a tablespoon of vanilla in my goat ice cream recipe alone. I've bought three 2 oz. vanilla bottle in the last couple months which tells me I use lots of vanilla. That's why when the kids were young and relatives of my husbands went to Mexico when they went south for the winter, I had them bring home vanilla. What I didn't know then was that the bottles have coumarin, an anticoagulant banned 50 years ago in the USA. Oops!!

The other variety that fit best with my present cooking style was Bourbon Madagascar. The site owner, recommends it as the all around variety and personal favorite for cakes and cookies. So there you have the two I'm brewing, shall we say.

Now for the extremely simple instructions so you can decided that you too should be a home-made vanilla maker.

Cut 6 vanilla beans the long way with scissors to within a fourth inch from the top.

Pour 2 cups or 16 ounces of vodka in a canning jar.

Add the six vanilla beans.

Leave in a dark cupboard for six weeks.

That's it. I'm not kidding. It is that simple.

Half the recipe if you want but you've got to try this. Then in a few weeks we'll venture off into making our own orange, lemon, mint, and almond extracts too.

Of course I changed things just a tad as the second day I still couldn't get the softened beans to stay beneath the vodka so I cut the vanilla beans in half. I couldn't see why I was fighting them when you cut the bean in half lengthwise, then why not the other way too?

One site recommended sterilizing all your equipment and I thought that sounded smart so that you didn't impart any unwanted flavors into your vanilla. Stephen Block recommends waiting six weeks before pouring the vanilla into dark colored jars to protect the vanilla from light.
That's the hardest part about making vanilla, the wait until you can use it. It's only a little over a week but oh, it's been such a long time. I stare at it daily in the cupboard and it tempts me. Use me, Use me, it calls but I resist afraid I'll be disappointed and I'm sure I would be so I'm waiting, thinking mm... it might just make a wonderful part of a Christmas gift.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you one last thing that I found about store vanilla. It sometimes comes with an expiration date. If it is REAL vanilla, it has no expiration date. If not, then follow the recommended time period for fake vanilla flavoring.

Okay, now get to researching on your own and order those vanilla beans. You'll want some for yourself and some brewing up for Christmas gifts. When I get a gallon or so of vodka, (I heard it comes in that size) we'll be making all those other extracts and you won't want to be left behind.

No comments:

Post a Comment