Wednesday, February 24, 2010
A Bottle of Vodka and A Few Vanilla Beans
In my many travels through blogland I am always finding new ideas. Many of these ideas are in the edible form. What can I say I enjoy eating, however as time has progressed with me, I have had to learn to eat lighter and make sure that what I do consume is as healthy as it can be. One thing that has always gotten me is the amount of perservatives that go into so many of the processed foods these days. If I can not pronounce it I am a bit skeptical as to if I should be letting it enter my body.
Because of this I am always on the look out for new and inventive ways to cook, store, or create anything that I may use in my kitchen. Recently I ran across a blog post on making your own vanilla. Now let me say this before I go any further, vanilla is one of my most absolute favorite flavors as well as one of my favorite smells. In fact when I was little, I used to sneak in the cupboard and smell the vanilla all the time. One day I took a sip thinking that its flavor would be just as glorious as its aroma. I quickly learned that this is not the case.
Vanilla is derived from the Orchid plant. One flower produces one fruit. It was first grown in Mexico and translated it means little pod. It was brought out of Mexico to Europe in the 1520's by Cortez. Today one can find a number of different varieties of bean: The Bourbon bean or Madagascar bean, The Mexican bean, The Tahitian bean, and the West Indies bean. Many may think that the term french vanilla also describes a type of bean. This is not so. This term is used to describe anything that has a strong vanilla aroma and contain vanilla grains. Vanilla is also said to have some medicinal uses. It is said it can be used as an aphrodisiac and also a remedy for fevers. However, this has not been scientifically proven.
With the fact that vanilla is the second most expensive spice, next to saffron, I found the possibility of making my own a cost saving adventure. Also the fact that I would be creating the mixture myself I felt it was more fresh and thus lest additives. Anyone who uses fresh spices also knows the wonderful difference from those purchased in stores. The freshness allows you to use less as the flavor is much stronger. Again another money saving reason.
The recipe is quite simple although if you do look it up on the internet you will find a variation of amounts to use. I basically took an overall sample from all to create mine. First get you a bottle of alcohol, such as vodka, rum or gin. I choose vodka as it was the most tasteless therefore creating a cleaner vanilla taste. However, I have spoke with some who used rum and simply loved it.
The number of vanilla beans to use is where most recipes vary. I have seen 2 for one bottle of alcohol to 3 beans per cup of alcohol. I myself used 4 beans. Take your vanilla beans and with a sharp knife slice them down the middle, exposing the wonderful aroma and vanilla paste inside. You can just put the uncut bean inside yet I feel the slicing of them allows more flavor to be drawn from it. Screw on the lid and place the bottle in a dark cool place (a pantry works wonderful) for aproximately 8 to 10 weeks. Occasionally shake the bottle to help the flavor blend. Soon your clear alcohol will turn a nice amber color.
When it is time use your vanilla you will need to strain it via a cheese clothe to catch all the lose seeds that have come out of the beens and also the beans themselves. If you would like to keep some of the seeds you can strain through a sieve to just remove the bean. When bottling I put a fresh bean in each bottle to continue the process of flavor. One bottle can last up to years as each time it starts to go down, simple top it off with additional alcohol and allow to sit . You will not have to let it sit as long as before as the flavor will already be present.
There are many places to purchase vanilla beans yet I suggest you go online and purchase them in bulk. It is much cheaper and they are just as good and sometimes better. Purchasing them in the grocery store is very costly as you can only purchase one at a time. This is so simple and a wonderful way to have wonderful tasting vanilla as well as a great gift idea.