One thing I am really happy about is the vanilla extract! It is super easy and tastes better than what you get in the store.
Today vanilla is still hand pollinated using a technique developed in 1841 by Edmond Albius, a 12 year old slave who lived on the island of Reunion.
Vanilla is so incredibly expensive because of the enormous amount of time and care that goes into every bean pod.
Each orchid flower produces one vanilla bean pod after it’s been hand pollinated. The orchid flowers only bloom for one day so the timing is everything!
Once a flower has been pollinated the bean pod will take around 10 months to mature. It has to be harvested at the right time to ensure the highest quality. After the vanilla bean pod is harvested it goes through an extensive curing process.
Not many herbalists use vanilla medicinally today, probably due to the high cost of the beans. Historically, vanilla has been used as an aphrodisiac, for stomach pain, coughs, as both a stimulating and relaxing nerving, and even for venomous bites.
Using a good quality vanilla can really make a difference in your baking and it's so easy to make your own there's no reason why you can't have the best on hand at all times.
Homemade extract will keep indefinitely too! All you need is some plain vodka, vanilla beans and a few clean bottles.
The following directions will make six 4-ounce bottles.
Six 4-ounce Amber Boston Round Glass Bottles
12 Whole Madagascar Vanilla Beans
3 cups unflavored vodka.
Thoroughly wash the bottles and caps in hot, soapy water or toss in the dishwasher and allow to air dry.
Slit each vanilla bean lengthwise with a sharp knife, stopping 1/4-inch from each end.
Cut each bean in half crosswise, giving you 24 pieces.
Place 4 pieces of vanilla (2 beans) in each bottle.
Using a funnel, pour 1/2 cup of vodka into each bottle and push the beans down to submerge.
Screw the caps on tightly and place the bottles in a cool, dark place to steep. The vanilla will be ready for initial use in 6 weeks, but 8 weeks is optimal for the most flavor.
See how pretty the process is!
When you give this as a gift make sure to tell your friends that they can just keep topping off the bottle with a little vodka or rum and it will keep going and going.
Next time I do this I am just going to get the vodka and put the vanilla beans right in it. It isn't as pretty for gifting but perfect for home use.
Try this! It is so easy and fun.