Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract~

I had a very nice Valentine's Day with Steve & Lisa, Quinlyn & Michael. We got together on Saturday and Monday, so there was plenty of  food and plenty of gifts. And now I want to say that  I was intrigued the first time I saw Martha talking about  making vanilla extract, and I've decided to share the recipe with you. Both Martha Stewart and Ina Garten have something to say on the subject, and I hope it's of interest.

In her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, a reader asks: Can I make vanilla extract at home? And Martha replies: "Yes. And easily. All you need is a vanilla bean, some vodka, and a glass vessel with a tight seal."

"Split the bean lengthwise with a sharp paring knife, and then use its tip to loosen the seeds by gently scraping inside the pod. Pour 1/2 cup of vodka into a clean glass jar with a cork stopper or a screw top lid. Submerge the pod and the seeds, and leave them to soak at room temperature for one to two months."
"During this time, if you make dishes that call for vanilla seeds, add any scraped pods to the jar to further strengthen the taste. Once the extract is ready, discard the beans, and store the jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to a year."

And she goes on to say, "Homemade extract has a more delicate, nuanced flavor than its store-bought counterparts (both the imitation variety and the bean-based), so it shines best in recipes that feature vanilla as the main flavor component, such as panna cotta; it's also delicious in whipped cream or meringue. But you can use it in any recipe that requires extract."

Now here's what Ina Garten says about making vanilla extract  in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Ina says:
 "Anna Pump from Loaves and Fishes in Sagaponack showed me how to make my own vanilla extract. Find a tall bottle that will hold at least a dozen vanilla beans. Fill the bottle with vodka. Let the beans marinate in the vodka for at least a month, and then you will have two wonderful ingredients for cooking and baking. First, the vodka will become vanilla extract, but more important, you can snip off one end of a vanilla bean and squeeze out all of the seeds for baking uses. This 'brew' can continue for years by just adding more vanilla beans and more vodka. I've had mine stored on a shelf in the pantry for almost 20 years!"

So it's up to you whether you use one bean or a dozen, and whether you keep it going for a year or 20 years. It seems to me that making this kind of personal gift for Christmas or birthdays would be so much fun and so special. You can add a wonderful homemade touch so easily, if you plan ahead a little. Some of you may shy away from using vodka in any way, and for you this isn't such a good idea. But for some of us, this seems a delightful and delicious way to do something that brings a flavorful aroma into the kitchen and adds a special flavor to our baking, remembering that there is alcohol in all vanilla extract!

I hope that you're all having a good week and that you're planning to have a lovely weekend.

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