20 February 2006

The vanillafication of my kitchen

I suppose it couldn’t have been helped. Being so immersed in vanilla caused everything within my short distance to smell like the prized bean…even Bean is smelling a little sweeter and less cat-like. I’m finding seeds everywhere and I know vanilla sugar and salt have found their ways into my camera case and laptop.

Things good be worse…I could be obsessed with durian.

Anyway, this month’s vanilla post centres on how to make your own vanilla flavourings and condiments. I’m not making all of these right now--I usually have some home-made vanilla sugar and extract on hand but I found some recipes for other vanillafications. The salt is my own experiment--I made some a little more than a month ago and have started using it--I'm quite happy with it.

There are couple of points to keep in mind when making your own flavourings. The beans should be pliable—if you can’t bend the pods easily, they probably won't work as well or as quickly as fresher beans. The other point is to only use glass bottles or containers made from non-reactive materials: plastic is far too porous and will allow other scents and flavours to seep into the contents and change the flavour. You can easily double or trebel the quanitities listed--it all depends upon how much you use and how much room there is in your pantry.






Vanilla Extract
To be on the safe side, I purchased one bottle each of Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian extracts to compare flavours and aromas, so I don’t have any home-made extracts on hand. Making your own extract is quite easy. I prefer using vodka because its neutral flavour, but you can use rum, brandy, cognac or any other spirit you wish.

250mL vodka
2 25cm vanilla beans

Split the beans so the seeds are exposed, but the tips of the pods are in tact (the best visual I can think of is that of a canoe). Place the beans in a dark-coloured glass bottle that has a tight-fitting lid. Pour in the vodka, close the bottle and store in a cool place for about a month. Every once in a while, give the bottle a swirl to mix its contents. As you use the extract, replace the liquid with more vodka. The beans will keep imparting their flavour for months, so if the extract starts tasting “weaker” simply replace the beans.

Vanilla Honey
Vanilla honey is an alternative to plain sugar—just remember that honey is about six times sweeter than regular sugar, so you should use less honey in your recipes. Mildly-flavoured honey such as clover is preferable to a heavier-flavoured type such as buckwheat.

500mL honey
1 25cm vanilla bean.

Remove the vanilla seeds by splitting the bean lengthwise. Stir the seeds into the sticky goo. Cut the pod into two pieces and then add to the honey. Close up the jar and let sit for at least one week.

Vanilla Oil
You need a very lightly-flavoured oil for this to work well. Forego the EVOO and reach for grapeseed or safflower oil.

500mL bottle of safflower oil
1 25 cm vanilla bean

Simply split the bean and put into the bottle. The oil will be ready to use in a week. Leave the bean in the bottle as it will continue imparting its flavours for about a year.

Vanilla Salt
Vanilla salt is great in savoury dishes made with seafood, pork or chicken; I like using it when I bake cakes. You can, of course, always use it as a finishing salt.

200g unadulterated sea salt
1 25cm vanilla bean

Tip in the salt into a very dry, non-reactive, airtight container. You can either add a split bean or cut the bean into two, finely grind one piece and mix it into the salt and then put in the other half, or just put the bean in as-is. Seal the bottle and place in a cupboard for a month before using, stirring up the contents every so often. Replace with more sea salt as necessary.

Vanilla Syrup

All of a sudden I’m craving a vanilla soda…

400g granulated sugar
500ml water
1 25cm vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Put everything into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and light the hob to medium to medium-high. Stir until sugar dissolves. Let mixture come to a boil for about two minutes, then reduce the heat and let simmer until the syrup’s volume has reduced to about one cup. Turn off heat and then let the syrup—including bean—cool before pouring into a container. You can use it immediately, store unused portion in refrigerator.

Vanilla Sugar
I love vanilla sugar stirred into my afternoon tea. Adding it to vanilla cakes or other sweets, will add an extra vanilla dimension to your treats. I’ve seen some complicated procedures including lightly toasting the beans and grinding up the pods, but I believe simpler is better.

200g granulated sugar
1 25cm vanilla bean

Tip in the sugar into a non-reactive, airtight container and then simply put in the bean. You can split it to expose the seeds if you wish, but I never do. Close up the bottle and then give it a good shake. Place the bottle in a cupboard for a month, stirring up the contents every so often. Replace with plain sugar as necessary. If you use whole beans in baking or in custards, simply rinse off the cooked bean, let dry and put into the sugar jar.

Vanilla Vinegar
Vanilla vinegars can be used in vinaigrettes or as finish to steamed veg. Your base vinegar should be mild, so consider white wine, cider or fruit vinegar.

500mL white wine vinegar
1 25 cm vanilla bean

Split the vanilla bean to expose the seeds and place into a bottle. Pour in the vinegar, close it up, give it a shake and let sit for a week. Leave the bean in the bottle as it will continue flavouring the vinegar for a year.

above: (top) vanilla sugar; (bottom) vanilla salt

cheers!
jasmine

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15 comments:

Zoubida said...

Really great to have such a collection of vanilla condiments to experiment on.
Thank you!

strawberry said...

Very informative indeed.
The pungent durian? You love it too? Back home, we have plenty of them. Fresh, in stick ice-cream, in creamier ice-cream, and in custards!

Thanks for visiting my site too ^^

I have a few questions if you don't mind. It's related to your post. Where in Toronto can you purchase a fresh vanilla pod? I bought one from TNT Supermarktet and they it wasn't fresh as I couldn't bend the pod easily without breaking it.
And one more thing, where to purchase the dark-colored small jars with fitted lid?

This seems a lot =p Thank you in advance!!

Ivonne said...

While I always have a jar of vanilla sugar on the go, I have yet to work up the courage to make vanilla extract.

But thanks for the recipe ... your "vanillafication" is inspiring me to take the extract plunge!

Pille said...

So many different vanilla thingies - including vanilla salt!? I've never heard of the latter one and am very intrigued now.

MM said...

What a wonderful post! Thank you so much - I really enjoyed it and am terribly inspired now.

MM said...

What a wonderful post! Thank you so much - I really enjoyed it and am terribly inspired now.

Paz said...

I've never heard of vanilla salt. Gotta try it!

I wouldn't mind my kitchen and dogs smelling like sweet like vanilla. ;-)

Thanks for the wonderful post!

Paz

Jasmine said...

Hello all! So nice to see new friends :)

Zoubida: Our paths keep crossing--welcome to my little page. You're very welcome -- good luck with your experiments :)

Strawberry: I don't live in TO, so I may not have the best info for you wrt where to get things. Re: beans, you could try Pusateri's--I get mine from my equivalent shop. As to dark-coloured bottles--I must admit that I am a scavenger so I tend to keep and re-use bottles (old yeast and extract bottles). I swear I saw some online a couple of months ago...If I come across them again, I'll let you know.

If there's a Torontonian reading who could help out, please post here--thanks

Ivonne: Extracts are so easy to make! Take the plunge.

Pille and Paz: Welcome back! I came across a mention sometime last year and then Rorie mentioned she got some for Christmas. It's different, but nice.

MM: Thanks for visiting! I hope you have fun experimenting :)

Jasmine said...

Sorry -- forgot to write this in the response to Strawberry's question:

The purpose of dark-coloured glass bottles is to keep light away from the contents. If you don't have dark-coloured bottles at hand, then just put the extract (or whatever) in a dark corner of a cupboard.

j

strawberry said...

Thank you, Jasmine!

domestika said...

As a beekeeper, I'm always looking for new ideas of things to do with honey. Can't imagine anything more lovely than vanilla honey - thanks for the tip!

Agus Ramada S said...

This information is very use for me
Greeting from Indonesia Vanilla Farmers

Donalda said...

Hullo!
Have been trying to find an authority on how to best create a cardamom extract and your blog came up! I was wanting to do a vanilla extract, but then thought that seeing as I love cardamom, a cardamom extract to maybe put into my coffee would be ace. However, some folk on the internet are saying, yup, just like vanilla, and others are saying, take out the cardamom after about 48 hours as it will go bitter. Is this something to do with whether or not you extract the seeds or use the pods? Any ideas?

jasmine said...

Hi Donalda

I'm sorry I really don't know why it would go bitter. The hulls would, I think, impart a greener flavour, and mingle with the seeds' camphorous nature. Could it be the camphor gets too strong? The only thing I can suggest is to experiment. Three batches: one with seeds in for 48hrs, another for 72 and another for 96 (or whatever intervals you like. You can also do two batches--one with and one without the hulls, and taste after 48hrs and see what you pick up.

j

Anonymous said...

Hi Jasmine,
sorry I didn't see this before. Thank you for your answer - I was thinking I was going to have to do that. I couldn't see why it would be bitter, although the hulls was the one thing I thought could influence. If I get round to doing this some time soon, I shall let you know how it goes.
Many thanks for the advice!
DB