Friday, October 8, 2010

Vanilla from Scratch

Apparently I've stumbled on something that is quite popular; making your own vanilla. I had just commented to Andy the other day about making our own vanilla since we go through it so fast between making ice cream from scratch every Family Movie Night and the hot carob drink I make almost daily instead of coffee. He, of course, was all for it and said to look into it. So I did what any modern day person does I went to the library and looked up vanilla in the card catalog. What??? Ummm, no, not really. Our library doesn't even have a card catalog. Do you even know or remember what a card catalog is? Anyway, I got on the internet and googled, how to make vanilla or something along that line. I found tons of websites with lots of information. Basically, it is vanilla beans and vodka put in a jar and letting it sit, easy peasy. So I ordered my beans from my normal spice company and waited for them to come. After they arrived, other things interfered with getting it done. Things like: salsa, school, green beans, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers and school. I started to work on it last week while the kids were a science labs, but realized that I needed to get some things yet, namely the vodka and some gallon or half-gallon glass jars. Andy is on the road harvesting and the kids had my RAV so I waited.

Wednesday of this week for youth group, A1 got to take the big red truck, instead of my RAV, because I also needed some groceries and other things. We had been too busy with things for school that I needed to be home for in order for me to even run out. I'm sure you all understand that. The cupboards were looking like Old Mother Hubbard's. That doesn't work well at all with two teenagers in the house, one of which is a growing 13 year-old boy. So my Mom Time night was turned into errand night. I purchased 1/2 gallon ball canning jars and 1 bottle of vodka. The vodka I purchased is made from rye and is a Polish Vodka, called Sobieski. I hopped over to Wikipedia looking up vodka so I could give you a few facts. I know it is not the truest source of information, however, my Encarta is on the other computer in the office and I'm just too tired to go get it. I have to put something in here that is school like. Anyway, Wikipedia states:

Vodka may be distilled from any starch/sugar-rich plant matter; most vodka today is produced from grains such as sorghum, corn, rye or wheat. Among grain vodkas, rye and wheat vodkas are generally considered superior. Some vodka is made from potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes, rice, sugar beets and sometimes even byproducts of oil refining or wood pulp processing. In some Central European countries like Poland some vodka is produced by just fermenting a solution of crystal sugar and yeast. In the European Union there are talks about the standardization of vodka, and the Vodka Belt countries insist that only spirits produced from grains, potato and sugar beet molasses be allowed to be branded as "vodka", following the traditional methods of production.[20][21]

Since we have a potato and gluten allergy that will keep one of us from eating this during shots, it didn't really matter which type I purchased. I will just have to remember that during the restricted time after allergy shots that not everyone can have vanilla in items. I never realized before that we probably shouldn't have been using it. Even I am still learning something new everyday.

Okay, the beans were opened and counted, much to my disappointment, there wasn't quite enough beans in my package according to 3 different sites that I looked at. So I got online and looked again. This, is a God thing. I was checking through my email that afternoon when my feed came through for Heavenly Homemakers and she had brought up making vanilla. Apparently, I just can't get away from it. Since this is a blog I like to read I thought to look up where she gets her beans from. So I followed her link and then did another search, trying to figure out if I really needed organic beans. I try to avoid pesticides in things as much as possible. My search led me here: Amadeus Vanilla Beans. This site is great!! It is loaded with information about the different types of beans and what they are like. I had also checked to see pesticide usage in vanilla growing. A lot depended on if it was wild or plantation farmed. My vote, go organic. The prices at Amadeus Vanilla Beans were awesome, so I ordered 2 pounds of the organic vanilla beans. We are going to have vanilla coming out of our ears. Possible gifts for Christmas to be given, however, it technically won't be at its best flavor in time to use it at Christmas.

So how am I making mine you wonder after that lengthy explanation. Hang on because here we go.

Before you begin any cooking project we must first discuss this, the safety of washing our hands with soap and water. Be sure to use both and scrub for the whole song of "ABC.." or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." (This is to be thought of in the tone and manner of Norm Abram of New Yankee workshop who begins every episode with first we must discuss safety, and no more important rule then these, the safety glasses) Can you tell I'm married to a woodworking guy? Guess what? I now get to listen to it even when he is on the road for work since A2 watches the show regularly. Okay, back to work.

First you will need to gather the ingredients:

1/2 gallon or 1 gallon jars that seal, if you can find amber colored it is suppose to be better for your vanilla. I just have mine put in the back of the pantry cabinet in the dark.

1.75 liters of 35-40% proof vodka- your choice of type and expense.

40 vanilla beans/per 1.75 liters of vodka(this is a half-gallon size jar)

Make sure that your jar and lids are cleaned with soapy water and rinsed well. Now comes the smelly part. Yes, smelly. While I love, love, love, did I say love, the smell of vanilla after the first initial whiff it doesn't smell so good close up. You are going to use sharp scissors to slice open each bean from one end to the other, leaving about 1/4" to 1/2" not sliced. Place the sliced beans into the jar, nothing fancy, just put them in.

After you are done slicing, do not wash your hands off because you will have lots of tiny beans on your fingers and your scissors.

Open the vodka and pour it into the jar over your fingers, rubbing them under the vodka to rinse the beans into the jar. That part is easy, the scissors are trickier. You need an extra hand, or you can just wipe the scissors of with your fingers and rinse under the vodka again.

Put the lid on the jar after all the vodka is in and place in a dark cabinet. One of the places that I was at said that you could use the vanilla as early as 4 weeks, but that it would continue to age and get better as it sits. This particular site makes theirs a little different. Fell free to go check it out. Other places side to not use it for 6 months. The other personal decision to make is to filter or not to filter. I think I'll probably take the bean pods out at 6 months, but not coffee filter out the beans themselves. The above link also suggests shaking it daily the first week and routinely after that. Guess I need to go shake my jar tonight.

I think, we'll wait at least 8 weeks for this first batch of a half gallon. The gallons that I make when the new beans come in we'll wait for 6 months on. I hate to keep buying vanilla when we have some sitting here. Now I'll know to always keep some "cooking" in the cabinet.

I still have to research jars for making gift, but I really like that idea. Google is your friend. I've peeked, but not really compared a lot yet. I thought I'd let you all choose what you want.

Have a great time making yours! I'll let you know how mine tastes in a few weeks/months. I may try not shaking some of the next batch to see what the difference is in taste. A science experiment in the making, I can see it now.


ParadiceMom said...

I received homemade vanilla when I lived in Hawaii, but had to leave it with my neighbor when we moved :( I didn't realize you had to use quite that many beans. How much do you think you spent on the actual beans? I have been wanting to make vanilla for myself and of course, for gifts. It is so unique, in my opinion.

lahbluebonnet said...

Oh my goodness. Okay, here is what I'm doing! LOL My son gave me a vanilla bean from one of the historic shops at Colonial Williamsburg for Christmas...and it still sits in my cupboard. I plan to make something wonderfully luscious with it, as in dessert. In doing so, I will scrape the beans out of the pod to put into the recipe. That leaves me with an empty pod that smells yummy. I will put that into my sugar canister which should last forever!
I went to a cooking demo years ago and btw the chef knew me! I was her little brother's third grade teacher! Anyway I won the bean pod left over from the dessert. She told me to put it into my vanilla canister and boy that infused vanilla into the crystals and it was additional yummy whenever I baked and smelled delightful every time I opened the canister. I only got rid of it when I moved across country, because I didn't like the idea of food being in a moving truck and storage for who knows how long.

Anita M. said...

I am so sorry for the delay on answering this. I forgot that I have to monitor the comments and it didn't even register that I would have any. It was a nice surprise when I got on here finally to see what was happening.

I think I spent about $120 for 2 pounds which is going to make us about a 3/4 to a gallon total when I finish making the second batch. This is the link to where I got the ones that I liked the best and the above is what I paid for them.

Time to put this on my daily list or I'll keep forgetting to write and watch the comments.

Thanks for reading.