Winter seems to be the perfect time to make all these lovely vanilla infused yummies. It is snowing outside, the woodstove is keeping us warm, and I am doing my thing in the homestead kitchen. I use fresh vanilla beans to infuse alcohol, oil, and salt which I use in various dishes in my kitchen; from oatmeal to cookies, truffles, salads, and elixirs. I often make honey infused with vanilla beans, not today though.
Why make your own Vanilla Products?
My main reason for creating my own products is that I simply like doing it. I love mixing and measuring, creating new variations, and using high-quality organic ingredients. I like the process, I like seeing the color of the alcohol change over time, experience the change in taste and smell, and I like giving all of these little treats as gifts.
What is Vanilla?
Did you know that vanilla beans are part of the vanilla orchid, a tropical orchid called tlilxochitl by the Aztecs? Each flower must be hand-pollinated within 12 hours of opening. The vanilla seed pods are hand-picked and the curing process takes several months. According to Wikipedia, Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron. The time consuming process might explain why.
I buy my organic vanilla beans in bulk here.
Below I am describing three ways to use Vanilla beans. For each recipe the basic process is the same: Cut the vanilla beans open lengthwise to release the actual seeds. Put alcohol, salt, and/or oil into a clean bottle or jar and add the vanilla beans. Give it a good shake or stir and infuse the vanilla beans for several months, a minimum of three. The batch of vanilla salt and extract I just made will be Christmas presents… yes, that is 9 months away; the longer you immerse the vanilla beans, the more intense the flavor will be. Keep the infusion in a cool, dark place. Shake/stir as often as it comes to mind. When you are ready to use your vanilla infusion, just spoon around the beans to take as much as salt as needed. When using the oil, just pour off as much as you need and leave the vanilla beans in the oil. The same is true for the extract. As long as the beans are submerged and not exposed to air, you are good to go.
There are different opinions on how many beans to use per ounce of alcohol. I usually use 6 beans per 1 liter of alcohol.
I used vodka and rum this time (you can see the different color of alcohol in the picture). If you prefer to use Everclear or any kind of grain alcohol, you have to dilute the alcohol with distilled water. Many herbalists, like using 60% alcohol and 40% distilled water when making herbal tinctures, which I think is a good ratio for vanilla extract as well. I personally make almost all of my herbal tinctures with cognac or vodka, and so I prefer my vanilla extract to be immersed in it as well.
I am in love with vanilla salt. The sweet and salty flavor will capture your senses. I use this salt to sprinkle on my homemade chocolate truffles. But you can use it in any dessert that calls for a touch of salt. Salt and vanilla is such a great combination and the possibilities endless.
Vanilla Beans– I use 3 beans per jar
Coarse Sea Salt – you can find bulk high-quality sea salt here
If you want to use the oil for cooking and baking, make sure you use a food-grade oil as the carrier. I like using sunflower oil, the aroma is not as strong and it takes on the vanilla flavor nicely. If you would like to use vanilla infused oil as a body or bath oil I recommend using jojoba or almond oil as a carrier oil.
Vanilla Beans– I use six beans per liter
Oil– sunflower oil for baking and cooking and jojoba or almond oil to create body or bath oils.
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