April 5, 2009

Vanilla Bean Extravaganza: Beans Galore

I got some amazing Vanilla beans recently, and have been experimenting in the kitchen with ways to get the fullest YUM quotient from them. As the varieties were new to me, I first put up some in sugar and let sit for a week or so, then tested in coffee (and also just off the spoon, of course, need you ask? It's the Swedish Way). I have generally used Madagascar vanilla, a nice deep rich complex vanilla and the easiest for me to come by, and what I have made extract from in the past. The new ones are:

  • Bourbon: has a wine-like top note, and raisin-y mid notes. Rich and aromatic. On the tongue: shouts "Cookies!"; would be good for making extract.
  • Indonesian: Creamy, floral. Sweet, classic "vanilla" taste with almost marshmallow notes. This would be marvellous in a cream anglaise or vanilla syrup.
  • Tahitian: Fruity, almost grapelike notes. Highly aromatic, intensely floral taste.
I was expecting I could choose one to be an addition, or even a replacement, for my Madagascar--but I think I want to use all 4 kinds now!

For true vanilla extract, you need 13.35 oz vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol; this translates out to (generally) about 8 beans per cup of vodka (get not the most expensive, nor quite the cheapest; the cheapest has some rough edges even vanilla can't round off). I usually go more like a dozen per cup. Split and chop the beans, wiping the knife on the rim of the jar to get all the delicious little seeds into the extract. Cover with the vodka, stopper tightly, and set in a dark warm place for at least 6 weeks, but you can go longer--it gets richer and nicer as it ages.

A third or half of a bean simmered gently in cream or milk for a pudding recipe will flavor and scent it amazingly; and a bean per jar of sugar is just the thing for sweetening your berries or coffee, or a piece of toast. You won't even need butter, which is almost sacreligious for me to say.
  • I got enough extra beans to share the wealth; they will be listed on the availability page with pricing. As they are comparatively light and fluffy, they can ship in a bubble envelope.