|Homemade Vanilla Extract|
I sometimes say that my very organized pantry and refrigerator are probably just ways to over compensate for the many unorganized areas of my life. Well, if that is actually true, so be it, because I could just rearrange and stare at my perfectly placed and staggered assortment of jars and canisters for hours. Pale pink lentils here, large swirly, spotted beans there...its a beautiful sight. There is actually one productive aspect of all this time spent behind the pantry door and its that I'm always well-aware of what I have or what I need.
Although not much of a baker, two items I still try to always have on hand (and are quite pleasing to the eye, in fact, as I scan and scan and scan...) are homemade vanilla extract and vanilla sugar.
I do some actual baking with the vanilla beans, but also really enjoy using the leftover and remaining fresh beans to make homemade vanilla extract or infuse some store-bought white granulated sugar. I use small glass bottles (small port, dessert or sauternes wine bottles are perfect) and corks I have laying around, and end up with attractive bottles of vanilla extract, ready to use in a few weeks. A mason jar filled with sugar is just as simple, and will be scented and ready to go within just a few days. Use it whenever white sugar is called for, as the subtle hint and nudge of vanilla will compliment most baked goods or treats (think shortbread, sugar or butter cookies, custards, pound cake or just a sprinkling over tarts or pies)
These also make thoughtful, inexpensive gifts for the baker in your life, or maybe the baker you want in your life.
(adapted from Food & Wine magazine)
*1 1/2- 2 cups vodka
*Up to 10 split vanilla beans (I prefer bourbon Madagascar vanilla beans from Olive Nation)
(adapted from The Paris Cookbook, by Patricia Wells)
* 4 cups sugar
* Up to 4 fresh or 4 split and used vanilla beans
Pour the sugar into a large jar or airtight container. Push and pack the vanilla beans down into the sugar. Cover and let vanilla infuse the sugar for a few days, or up to a week. Continue to replenish as the sugar is used, and add or replace vanilla beans every few months.