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Posts from the ‘Preserving’ Category

6 Quick Steps To Make Your Own Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract

 

Did you know you can make your own pure vanilla extract at home with just a few ingredients? It’s not a mystery any longer and it’s a lovely gift to give to your favorite baker. As with any homemade product, there are several benefits to making your own. For one, you get to choose the quality of ingredients and know exactly what is in your vanilla extract. This means, you will have the highest quality vanilla extract available without anything artificial.

A few years back we decided as a family to give handcrafted gifts for the holidays instead of purchasing them. I was in search of what I could make that would be both fun and practical. That’s when I learned that I could make my own pure vanilla extract. Why had I not thought of this before?  Considering that nearly everything that is mass produced now were once made at home, it’s not that crazy of a thought that I could produce a gift that my family and friends would enjoy.

 

Vanilla bean pods

So what is pure vanilla extract? It is simply the extract (flavor and aroma) from the vanilla beans that have been immersed in alcohol (usually vodka because of it’s neutral flavor, but sometimes brandy or rum) over a period of time. The FDA requires;

“In vanilla extract the content of ethyl alcohol is not less than 35 percent by volume and the content of vanilla constituent, as defined in 169.3(c), is not less than one unit per gallon.”

So that means the vanilla extract you’ll find in the store, is 70 proof (35% alcohol) and it contains 13.35 oz of bean per gallon of alcohol which would produce a single strength vanilla extract. After more research I found that some bakers prefer a double strength vanilla extract and others do not. I am guessing it is a matter of preference.  I lean toward loving the scent of vanilla and enjoy baking with it so my recipe may have a wee bit more vanilla than others but since I’m making my own and not planning to sell it I can follow whatever guideline works for our baking needs and that is a nice pure vanilla extract that flavors our baked goods without overpowering them.

The vanilla bean grows from a kind of tropical orchid. The fruit starts out as a hard green pod and the greenish white flowers (missing in this photo) and in a natural setting are dependent on bees to pollinate them, but now in modern times they can be artificially pollinated.  These vanilla beans are picked unripe and then submerged in hot water to remove their protective cover and allow for the natural liquids to seep out. They are then allowed to dry in the sunlight and ferment. When they have turned brown and covered with a layer of vanillin crystals the vanilla beans are ready.

 

Kauai'i - Green vanilla pods on the vine -Steel Grass Chocolate tour

Unripe vanilla bean pods on the vine in Kauai

 

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Just right Pear Butter

A large ripe box of fruit, especially pears sitting on the counter is like a heavy dollar in a kids pocket at the candy store.

Fruit is my candy, I love it most when it’s enveloped in a warm layer of sugar and spices fresh from the oven or dried and chewy with its sweet autumn flavors concentrated in each bite.

This year I decided to expand my appreciation and try pear butter. With cold snap of winter ebbing and flowing this November I look to comforts and the smells of mulled cider and chi permeating the kitchen. I like to remember that cozy feeling when I was a kid, coming in from play outside in the cold and smelling the nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves filling the air during the holiday times. So naturally, I put on a pot of hot apple cider with mulling spices warming my memories and continuing the tradition for my family.

I do enjoy apple butter and mostly I’ve purchased it with the only ingredients being apples and apple juice. But for the pear butter I thought it would be nice to add those comforting spices so we can enjoy them even after the cold has gone.

RKW_4282 more pears

Pear Butter with Autumn Spices

yield: 5 half pints

6 lbs of ripe organic pears, peeled, cored and sliced into small pieces
1 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

RKW_4375

Combine pears, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and spices (ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg) in a heavy pot and bring to a simmer over medium/high heat stirring often. Once at a simmer reduce heat and continue to stir.


Put a spoon in the refrigerator to chill, for use later.

After an hour or so remove the pot from the heat and blend pear mixture with an immersion blender, in the pot. Or use a potato ricer, or if cooled regular blender. Blending until desired consistency.

Once blended, bring pear mixture back to a simmer over medium/high heat for 20 minutes more or until the butter will mound on the back of the chilled spoon.

Prepare your canning bath and supplies…

Ladle pear butter into sterilized jars, remembering to leave 1/4 head space, check for air bubbles with a wooden chopsitck, wipe rims with a sterilized cloth and place lids on top.

Process jars in boiling hot water for 10 minutes, remove and let rest for 24 hours.

Extras:

Great on toasted bread, atop oatmeal, ice cream. A great addition to quick breads, muffins and cakes for added moisture.
A wonderful hostess or holiday gift to give, add a tea towel and your favorite recipe, for a gift from the heart.

Enjoy!

Head Shot RachelleRachelle@ Caramelize Life

Caramelize Life Cooking Class @ Sun Mountain Lodge

It was a perfect time of year and a wonderful opportunity to work with a fantastic group of women in a garden to table cooking class.

Caramelize Life was kindly invited by Methow Arts Alliance and  Sun Mountain Lodge  to bring local produce and share simple recipes that could be made quickly at home with a lovely group of women visiting the Methow Valley.

It happened to be perfect timing for the class as the garden was in full production and ingredients were as fresh as could be.  On stage were succulent Heirloom tomatoes, fresh herbs, a selection of creamy chèvre from Sunny Pine Farm and locally sourced salmon

We all had a splendid time whipping up seasonal fair and an even better time sampling from our work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 ~cheers Rachelle@caramelizelife

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