I often wish that through life we would have to wear name badges. I have a terrible memory for names. Faces, I remember even with carefully rejigging of hair and makeup and the erosion throughout years, but names, forget it. That part of my memory is now taken up with all thoughts of food. Hang on! That’s an idea! Name everyone that I meet after a food.
“Oh hello yes sausage roll, we met a few weeks ago. Nice to see you again!”
“Yes of course New York cheesecake, we spoke last year!”
Anyone up for this? Whilst my memory for names is shaky, my memory for smells is acute and if I smell anything vaguely like that of my childhood I turn into a small, skinny, odd young girl all over again. The smell of vanilla is of course one of the most desirable and in baking it is an essential ingredient in the kitchen. It enhances so many baked goods. I of course go through loads of it and I was thinking that I should start to buy it in bulk.
When first added, the liquid is clear
But then I came across a post from my friend Celia who made her own vanilla extract. By George I think she had the answer to my supply dilemma! And if you were in any doubt about how easy it is to make your very own vanilla extract, she simply adds vanilla beans to vodka and steeps it for 8 weeks! Yes that is it believe it or not.
Celia also explains why it is better to make it at home. “When vanilla extract is made commercially, chopped beans are boiled up and percolated through a base alcohol. This is done to maximise the extraction from the beans in the shortest possible time. By contrast, cold macerating the pods for several months is a gentle process, and the vanilla aroma and flavour extracted from the beans is very pure and clean, without any stewed or cooked overtones. You’ll be able to taste the difference in your baking.” And voila, before you know it you have a huge amount of vanilla extract complete with seeds! Edited to add: And like many have mentioned, these make excellent Christmas presents!
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your favourite aroma or smell memory? And are you as bad at remembering names as I am?
Within days, the colour turns to amber, then ithin weeks, a deep dark gold
Made From Scratch: Vanilla Extract
- 750ml bottle of vodka (I used a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka I was sent)
- 6-9 vanilla beans
- Bottles to place them in-I used 3x bottles that held roughly 1 cup in each
Buyer’s tip: If you are in Sydney, inexpensive and good vanilla beans can be bought at Alfalfa House in Enmore (about $1.25 each, no minimum purchase)
1. With a small paring knife, slice vanilla beans in half and scrape out the beans with the blunt side of the knife. Place the seeds in the bottles. Do this to the remaining seeds with three beans per bottle.
2. Top with vodka and allow to steep for 4-8 weeks. You can keep adding scraped vanilla pods to this too to increase the vanilla aroma. I occasionally shook it once or twice during this process and watched it from from a clear liquid to a dark amber. You can decant some to use and top up the bottle with the vanilla beans to make more.
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