April 28th, 2009
This easy: The other day I was pouring myself a cup of coffee as Troy passed through the kitchen. I asked him if he wanted a cup. He said he’d love one. I told him I’d warm some up in the microwave (as we were still drinking the morning pot of coffee in mid-afternoon) and bring it upstairs for him.
As I stuck the mug in the microwave, Annalie wandered into the kitchen to see what I was doing. “Mommy,” she said, pointing at the double row of glass bottles that had been sitting along the back wall of the counter next to the kettle since I had washed them two weeks before in preparation for using them, “are you ready to make another batch of vanilla now?”
I thought about it for a second. “Well…sure. Why not?”
I pulled out the spouted Pyrex measuring cup and a clean pair of scissors while Annalie found a funnel and started bringing bottles over to a clear spot on the counter. I rummaged in the cupboard till I found the vanilla beans I’d ordered months ago, and got out the economy-size bottle of vodka that we bought for this very purpose. Annalie snipped the beans in half widthwise, then I cut each half lengthwise so each long bean became four short, skinny pieces. We stuffed eight small pieces (two whole beans) in each small bottle, and sixteen small pieces (four whole beans) in the larger bottle. I poured a half-cup of vodka at a time into the measuring cup and Annalie carefully filled each bottle using the funnel (we only had a couple of overflows which were easily cleaned up with a paper towel) and then screwed the caps on.
And voila, we had a whole batch of vanilla done, just like that. The whole process probably took ten, fifteen minutes tops, start to finish. I stuck them on the top shelf of our dish cupboard where they’ll enjoy a nice month-long rest in the dark, being disturbed only when we need a glass or a plate, or when I deem it time to inspect the color and give the bottles a good shake.
I bought two different types of vanilla beans this time (Madagascar Bourbon [which refers to a variety of vanilla bean, not to the alcohol used in making extract] and Tahitian) so I did an experiment of sorts. I made a few bottles of Bourbon-only, a few bottles of Tahitian-only, and made the rest with a mix. I marked the bottom of the bottles so I’ll be able to tell which is which. I look forward to doing smell- and taste-testing when the extract is ready to use.
Oh, and after all that was done and I’d cleaned up the mess, I remembered that Troy was still waiting for his coffee. I nuked it for a few more seconds then carried it upstairs, apologizing for taking so long and explaining that Annalie and I had just made a quick batch of vanilla. Troy laughed and said it was okay, he’d heard us doing something and figured either I’d bring the coffee up eventually or he’d go back down and get it.
Then as I handed Troy the cup, I accidentally sloshed coffee onto
my old laptop Troy’s new laptop* which was sitting on the cedar chest we use as a coffee table. Doh! Good thing I can make a mean batch of homemade vanilla, otherwise Troy would have gotten sick of me spilling liquids all over his electronics and just generally being a klutz. I think he sticks around at least partly for the baked goods.
*The laptop was fine. Coffee only got onto the corner of the case, didn’t even get into the keyboard.
For a more detailed account of how to make homemade vanilla with lots of pretty pictures, read Make your own vanilla extract.