Saturday, October 27, 2012

Make-it-Monday on a Saturday

I was baking the today, and emptied the last of a bottle of commercial vanilla. The replacement bottle was a gift from last year from friends, home made from vodka and beans they split with their bare hands. These friends had also given me Bourbon vanilla beans to try this out for myself. I did some poking online, and discovered that it takes 8 weeks for the vanilla to cure, so to speak, so I casually looked at the calendar and discovered that 8 weeks from the day was the 22nd of December. Having this ready for Christmas was going to be a stretch. I had a litre bottle of vodka in the cellar from my brother, and a sample size bottle from a friend.

The vodka from my brother and friend wasn't quite enough to cover the beans, so I ran out to the store, and purchased a enough to top off the mason jar. Obviously, I could have done a bit more topping off.

This vanilla extract recipe calls for a jar with an opening big enough to fish the beans out of easily, and if it's one that's been used for other food purposes previously, that it be sterilized. What it doesn't say is that this means the jar should be placed in the cold water with the lid off (but also in the water), water container and all brought together to boil, not dropped into the boiling water; you risk shattering the container dropping it cold into boiling water if you use glass. Using glass is probably the best idea, since plastic can retain other food odors.

 Also, its a very good idea to make sure the pot you sterilize your container in is taller than the container you use to steep your vanilla - I had to lay my mason jar on it's side in a saucepan and there were air bubbles in it, and it took some fussing to get the air out. Why is sterilization important? Bacteria, mostly, which yes, I figured the alcohol in the vodka would probably kill off, but still. I'd rather err on the side of caution.

So, aside from the trouble of not having enough vodka and sterilizing a wide mouth mason jar, the process is pretty painless. I only wish I hadn't thought of starting it now, 8 weeks before Christmas. Oh well. Live and learn. Now to round up some small, empty, brown glass bottles...

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