Friday, February 11, 2011

Love, Vanilla, and the Marriage of True Minds

I noticed the other day that my stash of vanilla is getting a bit low.  Since I go through vanilla at a rather frightening rate, I normally buy it in 8 or even 16 oz. bottles.  But, since gluten free baking has entered my life, I have been introduced to the concept of gluten free vanilla extract.  Which makes me usual sources just a wee bit suspect.

For several days I contemplated the problem, until it occurred to me that I have about 90 vanilla beans in my pantry.  The deal offered by Vanilla Saffron Imports was just a bit too good to pass up.  And while I like to use fresh vanilla beans when I can, the sheer number is more than I will get to before they start to lose their flavor.  I cleverly decided to make my own extract.

A bit of investigating the process of making vanilla extract will reveal that a distilled alcohol of at least 80 proof, some beans, and time are all you need.  I pondered (out loud) whether vodka or rum would be a better choice.  Vodka has nearly no flavor of its own, while rum would impart a little sweetness and depth of flavor.  My husband, being a helpful sort, offered to go out and retrieve that necessary item.  Since he's a bit of a gourmand himself, I bravely left the choice to him.

We've been married for over 10 years now.  And I still forget to be specific.  My darling returned with - wait for it....... - a bottle of Canadian whiskey.

Hmmmmm.  While the distillation process destroys any protein and therefore renders even a rye or wheat based product assumably gluten free...  it wasn't quite what I had in mind.


It actually worked out fairly well.  I sliced a dozen vanilla beans in half, and placed them into a glass pint jar.  Then I filled the jar with whiskey and set it in my cupboard.  Six weeks later (shaking and inverting once weekly), I had a passable, though somewhat harsh vanilla extract.  Since I was using whiskey, rather than rum, I wanted to round out the flavor.  One Tbsp of corn syrup later, and we're there!

We'll put it to use soon.  (And we'll talk about the book - my very first vintage cookbook!)

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