Lovely, easy-peasy recipe, the sort you just have to try straight away. Christmas presents (if you start this week). Once you've started, it can go on forever with the smallest effort. Melissa, at The Traveller's Lunchbox, whose idea it was in the first place, says this dark fragrant liquid gets more complex as time goes on. Lovely for baking.
This is what you do:
Get a one-litre jar. Put in all the pure vanilla extract you've got (I had 1/3rd of a bottle). DO NOT use that chemical vanilla essence; if you don't have any extract, leave out this step, it will just take a little longer to brew. Add cheap vodka, or any other spirits (rum? gin?). Chuck in all the vanilla pods in the house (at least six). Seal. Put somewhere cool and dark. Forget it. Add used vanilla pods when you think about it (rinse off the custard first!).
After at least six weeks, but the longer the better, strain off a little of the liquid into a tiny bottle. Add more spirit and more beans. (You can take out some old ones at this point if you like.) Seal. Put somewhere cool and dark. Forget it. Add used vanilla pods when you think about it (rinse off the custard first!). And so on, and so on, and so on.
If you think you might get into large-scale production, here's a link for buying vanilla in bulk in the UK. For the moment, I'm going to stick to buying it in Waitrose.
I'm including this in Heart of the Matter 8: Baking, which I'm hosting this month, because it occurs to me that this strongly-flavoured essence of vanilla would be wonderful for adding complex flavour to baking with little or no fat ... it's a sad fact of life that a lot of the flavour in all cooking comes from fat, particularly saturated fats - which means that, if you take those out of your cooking, you need to work hard on bringing in flavours from elsewhere.
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