[June] VanillaJun 4th, 2012 | By Ali Goodwin | Category: Flavor of the Month
Vanilla is quite possibly one of the most used, well-loved, and highly sought after spices of the world. First discovered by the Mexicans, vanilla beans (or fruits) came from the orchids of the Flat-leaved Vanilla plant. While it proved challenging to propagate this plant outside of Mexico, the mid-1800’s brought artificial pollination methods that proved successful, and now three major varieties of vanilla orchids are available from Mexico, Madagascar, Central and South America, Papua New Guinea and the West Indies.
Its labor-intense nature (special bees pollinate a fraction of the Mexican variety, the rest must be hand-pollinated) makes procuring vanilla beans somewhat costly. Here in the United States, the cost of vanilla rose significantly in the 1970’s after a tropical cyclone wiped out most of the world’s crops. The price has remained high, but understanding the difference between grades of beans might make using real vanilla a little easier to swallow. Grade A (Madagascar) beans are oily and moist and tend to be a bit more on the “spicy” side. They are considered “prime” or “gourmet” and are usually used when presentation is as important as flavor. Grade B beans (most commonly referred to as Tahitian) provide more bean for less money, because their moisture content is lower than the Grade A, therefore making them denser. Their flavor content tends to be more intense, while their shape and size tend to be smaller. Often they are considered the more floral smelling bean and are ideal for making your own vanilla extract, flavoring sugars, coffee, simple syrup for cocktails, for a fraction of the gourmet Grade A cost.
Since vanilla beans are readily available on the Internet, why not try making your own extract at home? It’s as easy adding one cup of 80-proof vodka to every 30 grams (or approximately six to eight) Grade ‘B’ beans in a sterilized, tightly-capped, dark colored glass bottle. Store it in a cool dark place and shake the bottle once a week. In 4-6 weeks, you have home-brewed vanilla extract that should keep for up to a year. Start your extract process in the fall and you’ll have a delightful holiday hostess gift.
Stay tuned to our Facebook page this month, and enter to win this Old Fashioned Ice Cream Maker by Nostalgia Electrics! See recipe below for Vanilla Ice Cream.
Vanilla Simple Syrup
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 vanilla beans (Grade A or B)
1. Add sugar and water to a sauce pan and bring to a rapid boil.
2. Split the vanilla beans lengthwise into halves and place in a heatproof jar or bottle.
3. Pour the liquid into the glass container with the vanilla beans and let stand, refrigerated, for 8 to 10 hours.
Makes 1 cup
Stores refrigerated for 1 week.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup 80 proof distilled vodka (40% alcohol)
- 6-8 vanilla beans (30 grams – Grade B)
1. Sterilize a dark glass bottle or jar. Wine bottles are perfect for this as long as they have a tight-fitting cork or cap.
2. Split the vanilla beans lengthwise into halves and place in the bottle.
3. Add vodka and let stand in a cool, dark place for 6-8 weeks, shaking once per week to agitate the beans.
4. Strain finished extract into smaller sterilized bottles and use within one year.
Makes 1 cup
Stores up to 1 year.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1-2 vanilla beans (Grade B)
1. Slice the bean lengthwise and scrape out the vanilla seeds placing into a glass jar or other airtight container.
2. Add remaining seedpod and pour sugar over the top and cover. Let stand for 1-2 weeks.
3. Shake periodically to evenly distribute vanilla flavor.
Makes 2 cups
Vanilla Ice Cream
Recipe courtesy of Nostalgia Electrics.
Stay tuned to our Facebook page this month, and enter to win this Old Fashioned Ice Cream Maker by Nostalgia Electrics!
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 7 cups milk
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups half and half
- 2 3/4 cups heavy cream
1. Mix the sugar, corn starch, and salt in a large saucepan.
2. Over medium heat, slowly stir in the milk, stirring constantly.
3. Very slowly add the beaten eggs and continue to stir. Reduce heat to low and cook until mixture thickens slightly.
4. Slowly add vanilla, half and half, and heavy cream. Pour into a large glass bowl and refrigerate for 2-4 hours or until mixture has chilled.
5. Remove from refrigerator. Pour mixture into the mixing canister. Follow your ice cream machine’s instructions for specific details. Many machines specify not to fill the mixing canister more than 2/3 full, as the mixture will expand during freezing.