Thursday, September 18, 2014

One Ingredient Challenge: Vanilla Extraction--Part I

The first of an ongoing series (three have been completed already (though not all posted) and we hope to do more) of cooking from scratch. That is, we cook something from basic items that don't have multiple ingredients (e.g. spaghetti sauce includes all sorts of spices and maybe other stuff too; we'd start with tomatoes and individual spices and add them together)...The series will be posted here.

My wife is a big fan of the book Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. She has about two-thirds of the recipes marked for trying. One such recipe is making vanilla extract from scratch. Anyone who has bought vanilla extract at the store knows how expensive it is, especially if you buy a name-brand version. This recipe is super-cheap if you do it right. There's only two ingredients--vanilla beans and alcohol.

In stores, vanilla beans aren't so cheap, but smart buyers go to Amazon and purchase much more affordable beans in bulk. The type we bought makes 2.5 batches of vanilla according to this recipe and cost about $16 (the price fluctuates, so the link below may have a different number). We invited a friend to make a batch with us and still have some beans left over for vanilla bean ice cream (which may be a future One Ingredient Challenge).

For alcohol, the book recommends vodka since it has the least impact on flavor. The author also tried the recipe with gold rum and dark rum, both of which had more rum flavor in the vanilla extract. Depending on what you are making, perhaps a hint of rum flavor would go well. At any rate, cheap alcohol is fine. I picked up at 750 ml bottle of vodka for about $12 at a local liquor store.

Ingredients (tea and ginger snaps not included in the recipe)

The recipe is simple. Take nine plump vanilla beans, cut them lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Put the beans and the seeds in a jar with a close-fitting lid (we bought some canning jars).

Prepping ingredients

Pour a cup and a half of alcohol on the beans. Close the lid and shake gently. Then put it in a cupboard for three months, shaking the jar once in a while.

Finished (sort of) product

We set a reminder in our calendar for when we will open the jars and try it out. We'll have another post in December telling how it went.

See you in December!

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