After the Chicken Salad Husband melted the Crockpot we got as a wedding present some 7+ years ago, (I left it on the old stove…) I decided I needed an electric pressure cooker. I’ve made some amazing, just amazing Indian dishes, and some pretty good ribs.
Being the Chicken Salad Crafter that I am, I got to thinking about making stuff for Christmas. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure how the vanilla obsession started, but it did.
Apparently we are in the midst of a full on vanilla crisis. Between farmers getting out of the vanilla market in Madagascar and then a cyclone, well the price of the vanilla bean has just gone through the roof. There are a few places in the world that grow the vanilla orchid. Uganda, Mexico, Madagascar, India, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia to name the main ones. Each vanilla region has its own special favor, even though they all originated in Mexico. And its the only orchid that produces something edible.
So some genius figured out how to make vanilla extract in the Instant Pot. 6 months worth of seeping in booze cut down to about an hour.
Count me in. Then I saw what the beans cost, IF you could find them. Long story short, I found a store here in town that had both Tahitian and Madagascar beans. I bought all of them then drove an hour to another store to clean them out too. The price was much lower than anyplace else I had found.
To try out this procedure before I risked my precious beans, I made mint extract. I used the cheapest vodka (not even a Russian sounding name cheap) and basically I made spider spray (spiders hate mint, but I digress). So it worked. So I bought Popov vodka, which I was told was the bestest cheapest vodka around. It didn’t smell like jet fuel (and I would know) so I figured I’d give the vanilla a go.
I used 8 oz of Vodka and 5 cut and split Madagascar beans. I put them into a jar with a lid, pressure cooked it for 30 minutes with a natural pressure release and let it cool. (This CAN NOT be done on a stove top pressure cooker and because of the alcohol you should keep away from open flames when making this)
The taste test was amazing. I let it seep another week then strained the beans from the vodka and tested the proof. (the FDA says pure Vanilla extract must be 35% alcohol or 70 proof) My vanilla was well below the standard at 20% alcohol, or 40 proof. I either need to reduce the pressure time, or buy a higher proof to use. I used a hydrometer and testing cylinder to check the alcohol content of my extract. The higher content of alcohol helps make it keep longer. 20% will keep, but I want it to meet the standard.
So what to do with those beans I have left? I put them in an airtight bowl of white sugar and let it sit a couple days. (I scraped the caviar (the inside goo in the beans) into butter for vanilla butter) The vanilla sugar is just amazing.
And I bottled up the first batch to test cook this week. I found a great price on bottles from Specialty Bottle online.
So why is the Chicken Salad Crafter making vanilla extract? Pure vanilla extract is expensive. I can make it WAY cheaper, and I am in control of the ingredients. Do you know what is in artificial vanilla? Crap, that’s what. It is made from wood pulp and coal tar. (Google it if you don’t believe me) Plus it only has one of the 250 flavor compounds found in the real deal. Vanillin, the compound we love so much, is the only of the 250 that don’t cook out. So if you are adding this to an uncooked beverage or item you get the full roundness of the flavor. Unlike the fake-o stuff that is so flat once you taste homemade.
I have some perfecting to do. This experiment is not complete. I have different beans from other regions to try, and I need a lower temp or higher proof to make it just so.
Other extracts are in the works too. But this, oh Vanilla, is the queen of all. I will NEVER go back to store bought. But stay tuned for more, this is a Chicken Salad craft to be sure.
Have fun Ya’ll!!