Fearless Fridays: How to Use and Re-Use Your Vanilla Beans

This weekend you may come across a recipe that calls for a vanilla bean. Vanilla beans nowadays seem to be more common in cookbook recipes or as an ingredient in your favourite baked good.

Multiple uses for vanilla beans Using vanilla beans seems to be quite an investment when purchasing them in the grocery store or specialty food store.  So if you want to jump in with your feet first when working with vanilla (other than extract), here are some handy tips to use them and make them go farther than just one recipe!

How to use a vanilla bean:

Using the tip of a knife, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise. Then, using the back of your knife with slight pressure, scrape out the small black seeds. Use for any recipe that you would like to be vanilla flavoured, for example like cookies, custards, ice cream, buttercreams and cakes.

At this point you have many options to use the vanilla bean a second time. You can:

1.)    Infuse a hot liquid with the whole bean. Scrape out the bean as explained above . Then place the whole bean into the liquid. This will give the liquid an intense flavour with all the essence extracted from the bean with no waste. Once it has been in for 5-10 minutes or the duration of the cooking time, you can then strain it out.

Example for use: Ice cream, jam, caramel, simple syrup.

2.)    Dry the vanilla bean at room temperature for 1-2 days after you have scraped out the seeds for any recipe. Leave it on the counter in a cool dry area. Using a food processor or a clean coffee grinder, coarsely grind the dried pod. Keep in an air tight container. At a later use, you can add to any hot liquid to infuse vanilla flavour. Before serving, strain through a fine mesh sieve.

Examples for use: Custard, preserves that need to be strained, milk.

3.)    Make vanilla sugar. This can be made in  two ways; add a whole dried, scraped out pod to a container of granulated sugar or add the coarsely ground bean as explained in example two into a jar of granulated sugar. Using the whole bean will give a beautiful aroma and flavour to your sugar and using the ground bean will give you flecks of vanilla throughout the sugar.

Examples for use: Baked good recipes, in your coffee, rolled cookies, or dust on donuts.

4.)    Make vanilla vodka. Place a vanilla bean inside a vodka bottle and let infuse for one week before use.

Examples for use: Vanilla martinis or in any vodka based drink.

Multiple uses for vanilla beans

Chive Blossom Vinegar

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Canning and preserving can be a satisfying and safe way for me to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of the summer. I am able to create food that is made in a controlled environment that is fish and peanut free. Each year I try new recipes and I am always looking for new ways to build a complex flavour profile.  One way to do that is to use flavoured vinegar when pickling!

This post was inspired by the website Food in Jars (http://www.foodinjars.com  ), I was thrilled to see a way to use the chive blossoms that were flourishing in my own backyard. You can do this with any amount of blossoms.

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You will need:

  • Jar or bottle
  • Chive Blossoms
  • Any type of mild vinegar (I used basic white vinegar because I keep quite a bit it at home because of all the pickling and cleaning I use it for)

The following are the steps I used to flavour the vinegar:

 

Sterilize the bottle. I used a 1 Litre milk bottle that I dropped in boiling water for a few minutes.

Cut the tender purple blossoms off of the chive plants and thoroughly wash blossoms with cold running water. I let mine soak in cool water for 10 minutes, then drained off the water (because the sediment had fallen to the bottom), covered with new water and gently swished the blossoms in the water for a few minutes.

Dry blossoms thoroughly

Place in jar to fill ½ to ¾ full. Cover and fill the jar with white vinegar.

Store in cool dark place for a few weeks,( I put mine in the fridge), strain and use accordingly!

I will keep you posted on how I used my chive blossom vinegar! Thanks for the inspiration Food in Jars!

Spring preserves for the win!

Last week I was gifted rhubarb from a friend’s beautiful garden. I opened my front door to find a paper bag full of this delicious vegetable (?). Full of inspiration, I bolted into the kitchen to make my first batch of preserves of the year.  Being in Vancouver, we are a little behind the times right now of local fruits and vegetables this year as it was a wet, dreary spring. So it was a joy to see these scrumptious stalks of goodness.

My friend loves jams and preserves, so I decided to make a batch of Rhubarb Apple Jam and donate the finished product to her. Four years ago I started canning and making preserves and I seem to be quite addicted. When choosing fruit for preserving, make sure it is unblemished and firm. Slim and red rhubarb stalks are full of flavour, while larger thicker stalks can possibly be stringy or tough. Once harvested, it should be used within the first few days and stored well wrapped and unwashed in the refrigerator. Motivated from my latest cookbook purchase, Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber, I made her Rhubarb Apple and Gweurztraminer Jam.

Rhubarb is so versatile; it was hard to choose what to make with it! It had a sweet and crunchy end result and the recipe couldn’t have been easier. I am so happy with the results and am glad I tried something new.

Rhubarb Apple and Gewurztraminer Jam

I pound rhubarb

I pound tart green apples

7oz Gewurztraminer (or a pinot gris)

800g granulated sugar

Juice of one lemon

1 3” cinnamon stick (I added this to the recipe)

Rinse the rhubarb under cold water. Cut the rhubarb lengthwise then into  small dice. Peel and core the apples and cut them into small dice. In a ceramic bowl, combine the fruit, sugar, wine, cinnamon and lemon juice in a bowl. Cover with parchment paper on the surface and let it macerated in the refrigerator overnight.

Next day, strain the mixture through a sieve. Pour the leftover into a wide mouth pot and bring the syrup to a boil and cook to 221° F on a candy thermometer. Add the macerated fruit and bring to a boil again and skim any impurities. Reduce heat to medium and cook for another 10 minutes. Check the set. Pour the jam into sterilize jars, seal with lids on and let it cool. Makes 3 250ml jars.