Tag Archives: diy

How To: Make Vanilla Extract

31 Jan

When I moved to Germany three months ago there were things I was prepared for and things that I wasn’t.

What I was prepared for: language differences, crazy techno, drinking until 8am (shhhhh), snow, the absence of sunlight in winter, and a dearth of Mexican food.

What I WASN’T prepared for was the difference in baking supplies. Things I had always considered compulsory-vanilla extract, brown sugar, chocolate chips-were suddenly either completely unavailable or ridiculously expensive. You guys. A tiny-ass package of chocolate chips (maybe half a cup?) costs over 2 euro and claims to contain enough chips to make 20 cookies. They do not. I’d need at least 4 packages to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies which would cost way too much money. I haven’t had a chocolate chip cookie since I moved here.

Brown sugar is available but it is brown granulated sugar, not the dark, sticky stuff you can get in the states. Vanilla extract comes in either tiny glass vials or plastic envelopes and doesn’t taste or smell the same. It is much more sweet and syrupy.

Another surprise is that baking powder comes in packs of paper envelopes, and Germans use vanilla sugar more than vanilla extract, which also comes in paper envelopes. Many German baking recipes use these envelopes as measurements, so it’s not uncommon to see recipes call for “one packet of vanilla sugar, one packet of baking soda”, etc.

I moved to another country armed with all of my American recipes, of course, so these measurements make no sense to me and are not very helpful when I’m trying to re-create my favorite chocolate chip cookies. I’m sure I could figure out how much vanilla sugar to substitute for vanilla extract but not only does that sounds like a pain in the ass, I’m not sure how well it would work. So.

A welcome discovery was that vanilla beans are actually much cheaper than they are in the states and I decided to just make my own vanilla extract. I’ve actually done this once before on a larger scale and ended up with enough to last me almost 2 years. There are tons of formulations for vanilla extract making out there. I think the internet kind of exploded with them a few years back when someone discovered just how crazy easy it is to do.

All you need is cheap vodka, vanilla beans, and time. What?? I know. Also, an added bonus of doing this is that if you ever get desperate you can drink what is essentially your very delicious, very potent vanilla vodka. You’re welcome.

The amount of vodka to vanilla bean varies depending on how much vodka you start out with. I had a teeny bottle (about 1/2 a cup) so I only used one bean. If you have a larger bottle I would use two to three beans. A good ratio to keep in mind is one bean to every 1/2-1 cup of vodka.

First, you want to take the label off of the vodka. You can do this by soaking the bottle in a mix of water and soap for a few hours. After that the label should come right off.

Take your vanilla bean (or beans) and make a vertical cut down the length of the bean, splitting it in two but keeping the ends intact.

Put the bean in the vodka, seal the bottle, and shake to release all the vanilla particles.

Put the bottle in a cool, dark place and shake it every few days for at least a month. It will begin to take on a darker and darker hue, and after a month it is ready to use. That being said, the longer you can stand to let it infuse, the better. Two to three months would be the best.

This is the same bottle 10 days later.

This is 2 months later.

Still 2 months. Vanilla particles!

And ta-da! Vanilla extract. You can also use bourbon or rum as long as it’s high proof. (Bourbon would be super delicious, yeah?) Once it has been infused you can strain out the vanilla particles if you like but I personally don’t think it is necessary.

You can also cut the proportion of vanilla to booze in half, decrease the infusion time, and make vanilla infused booze! More on that later, perhaps?

Wouldn’t this make a great gift for that baker in your life? I’ve also heard of people making giant batches and using them as party (or wedding!) favors. What would you do with your delicious homemade vanilla extract?

xoxo, Stef

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How To: Make Mustard

25 Sep

It turns out that making mustard is very, very easy.

Who knew, right?

The basic components of mustard are mustard seeds and vinegar. There are endless variations of mustard you can make by building off of these two ingredients. Mine, for example, contains honey and beer. Other ingredients you can use include wine, sugar, herbs, garlic, and maple syrup. Here is a basic recipe:

3 TB yellow mustard seeds

3 TB brown mustard seeds

vinegar to cover seeds, such as cider vinegar

your favorite beer

2-3 tsp salt

1 TB honey

Whatever you add, all mustard starts the same. You must soak the mustard seeds in vinegar overnight. I use a half and half combination of yellow and brown mustard seeds. Then I cover the seeds with vinegar plus about 1/2-1″.

 

The next morning, blend the seeds and vinegar until they become a paste.

At this point you should add more liquid. I used beer. Add a little at a time until the mustard has a more liquid consistency. This is completely up to you and is very difficult to get “wrong”-so don’t worry about it too much. This is also when you should add salt and a sweetener if you would like. I used honey.

Pour the completed mustard into a jar.

Loosely tighten the cap and allow the mustard to sit on the counter for 1-2 days. This will allow the flavors to blend and mellow. After that tighten the lid and store in the fridge.

Eat. Nom nom.

You will never buy mustard again.

❤ stef

Recipe: Goat’s Milk CHEESE!

28 Feb

I finally got around to hauling out my kit from Urban Cheesecraft and making some queso.

And it was AWESOME.

I love making things that you usually have to buy (marshmallows, anyone?) because it makes me feel oddly powerful. Like, eff you world! I can MAKE SHIT. If the zombie apocalypse came tomorrow, you would definitely want me with your roaming band of survivors. I’m not a big fighter, but I can knit (which means I carry pointy sticks, more conducive to vampire slaughter, but still), I can sew, and I can cook. I know how to make bread and butter, though we will have to find a suitable lactating animal for the latter. You know, cow or goat. When the zombie apocalypse hits you won’t want to be too picky. For all you smartasses who think you can’t make butter from goat milk, YOU’RE WRONG.

So my cheese-making experience was fantastic, except that I almost over heated my milk. One of the crucial steps in cheese making is separating the curds from the whey, which occurs when you heat your milk. I assumed that I would be able to very visibly see the curds separate, that they would be able the size of cottage cheese curds. Not so! The curds were so tiny I could hardly see them and I thought I hadn’t heated the milk enough. Fortunately I read the FAQ over at Urban Cheesecraft and discovered that not all curds are large. In my case, I ended up dipping a metal spoon into the heated milk, and when I pulled the spoon out it was dotted with tiny white specks. Curds!

So, what follows is your basic goat cheese making technique, found in the recipe book that came with my Urban Cheesecraft kit. You can find online recipes, too, but I highly recommend buying a kit from the good people at Urban Cheesecraft! It’s not as though you can’t make cheese without it, but they make it so much easier. Mine came with yards of butter muslin, molds, a thermometer, vegetable rennet, citric acid, cheese salt, and recipe booklets.

Soft Goat’s Cheese

I cut the original recipe in half.

1 quart goat’s milk

1/2 tsp citric acid

1/4 C water

cheese salt (which is just flaked kosher salt). Make sure the salt you use doesn’t have iodine or anti-caking agents.

butter muslin (very fine cheesecloth)

thermometer

colander

big bowl

cheese mold (optional)

Grab your goat’s milk.

This is the first time I had ever bought goat’s milk. I was understandably curious.

Tastes just like moo cow milk. Yum!

Dissolve the citric acid into the water and put aside.

Pour your goat’s milk and the citric acid/water mix into a large pot and clip a thermometer to the side of the pot. You want to make sure your thermometer tip is not touching the bottom of the pot, it should be suspended in the middle of the milk so it can take an accurate reading. Don’t use an aluminum pot, either.

Slowly heat the milk to 185˚F, stirring occasionally. Keep the heat at medium-low. You do not want to over boil the milk, nor do you want to over stir. (So, just make sure you aren’t stirring constantly and you’ll be fine!)

Once the temperature reads 185˚ the curds should have separated from the whey. If you can’t tell (and like I said, I couldn’t), grab a metal spoon and dip it in to the milk and take it out. If it has little white dots on it, the curds have officially separated.

These are curds. I know, I can't see them either.

Turn off the heat and let the milk sit for about 10 minutes. While you are waiting, grab your colander, line it with the cheesecloth, and put it over a large bowl.

Slowly pour the milk into the cheesecloth lined colander, and allow to drain for 15 -30 minutes.

Once it has drained, add the salt and herbs if you like. I added a bit of rosemary, but although it flavored the cheese well, the rosemary itself was a little bitter. If I were to do it again, I would use something sweeter like basil or thyme.

Gently stir to combine.

Line a cheese mold with cheesecloth and place it over another bowl or a plate. Scoop the curds into the mold.

If you don’t have a mold that’s ok. You can just scoop the curds into a piece of cheesecloth and tie off the top. This way would probably work better if you suspend the bag over a bowl somehow, maybe by tying it to a cabinet handle with a bowl on the bottom. The reason you’re scooping the curds into the cheesecloth bag or mold is to further drain and shape the cheese. The longer you leave it to drain, the more firm your cheese will be. Regardless of which method you choose, allow to drain anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours. I left mine for about an hour.

Now that your curds are chillin’, you’ve got lots of whey to worry about.

Pour it into an airtight container. It will keep for about 2 days. Urban Cheesecraft gives lots of suggestions for how to use whey. You can feed it to your kitty, use it in place of broth in soups and stews, or make hot chocolate with it instead of using milk or water. Basically, you can use it in any recipe in place of milk or water. They do give this warning, though-whey has LOTS of lactose.

When your cheese is ready, remove it from the cheesecloth or mold and put it in a container. The cheese will keep for a week or two.

You can use it however you like! The first thing I did was put it on some leftover caramelized onion pizza.

I also made two batches of pasta – sun dried tomato and goat cheese, and brussels sprout, sausage, and goat cheese. Yum!

❤ Stef