Grit Blogs > The Urban Bystander

Not Just Plain Vanilla

 Vanilla Ingredients 

As someone that enjoys cooking and baking, I am always searching for ways to improve the quality of the food and the cost of the preparation. With skyrocketing food costs, seasonings and spices are increasingly priced at a premium.

One way that I have found to reduce costs is to make my own vanilla extract. Of course, my daughter would patiently explain that it wasn't really an extract since I don't actually squeeze vanilla juice out of the beans. Instead it is a tincture...blah, blah, blah. I'm sure she's right. Well, whatever you want to call it, I find that I am now free to use as much of the resulting liquid in any recipe that I want, yielding a far richer flavor. Baked goods made with homemade vanilla are never bland. This is so simple, that I usually only make up a batch once per year. Today happens to be that day!

The steps are simple:

1.) Order vanilla beans. (I find my beans on Ebay)

2.) Make lengthwise slits in the beans

3.) Fill a pint-sized canning jar with either vodka or rum

4.) Add 4 or 5 slitted vanilla beans to each jar

5.) Place jar in a dark place for 3 months to allow the vanilla to
flavor the liquor

6.) Once a week or so, give the jar a little shake

7.) Once the vanilla is aged to perfection, you can pour it from the canning jar into an easy to pour bottle. We like to reuse glass maple syrup bottles for this purpose. Do not store the vanilla in a plastic container, as it could cause the chemicals in the plastic to leach into the liquid and alter the flavor.

8.) Add to any recipe that calls for vanilla extract & enjoy!

 Aging Vanilla in Jars 

They say that you can surmise a lot about someone by the things that they discard in their trash. Our trash collector will probably think we threw a wild party based upon the empty liquor bottles in the recycling bin. I'll be expecting the faithful readers at GRIT to vouch for my character and explain that the only wild thing around here is this groundhog in the backyard!

 Garden Groundhog Mascot 

I spotted this little joker yesterday. Why didn't someone tell me that it was Groundhog Day? I hope this isn't a bad omen for the 2012 garden.