Just starting out...My kids constantly complain that we have nothing to eat in the house. They say that all we have are "ingredients". Of course, I point to a pantry full of food as well as a full refrigerator and freezer, but lately I've been thinking that they may have a point. We do have a lot of ingredients but not very much prepared food, unless crackers count.
But here's the thing. I like making everything from scratch. First of all, I like knowing what's going into what we eat (but not in that "I'll only eat natural foods" kind of way), and I enjoy making it. It gives me pleasure. Is that so terrible? Believe me, my kids could have far worse problems than having a mother who likes to cook.
Having said all that, I may have hit a high point (or low point, depending on how you look at things) in my make-it-myself cooking odyssey. I am fermenting my own vanilla.
Before you go pointing fingers, let me just tell you that I go through a ton of vanilla. I am constantly buying yet another bottle at my local Penzeys because so many baked items call for vanilla. I don't like the cheap "imitation vanilla flavoring" sold at the grocery store so my vanilla habit is pretty pricey.
And I love a project. While not a high effort project (the best kind in my opinion), making vanilla is kind of a science experiment. And it's so easy I can't figure out why I've never done it before. All it requires is vodka and vanilla beans. That's it. Put the vanilla beans in a jar, cover with vodka and let it sit in a cool, dark place for a couple of months. The rest is fermentation.
Settling in for fermentationAs you use the vanilla you can add more beans and vodka. Think of this first batch of vanilla as a starter and just keep adding to it over time. An added bonus is that you can use the drunken vanilla beans in your cooking and baking. Just make sure to add more beans to the jar.
I am developing quite a little stockpile of possible holiday gifts. I have jam, pickles, and now I'll have vanilla. But I have to admit, I may keep this just for us.
Now here are some ingredients I can get my arms around.
Recipe: Homemade Vanilla
25 whole vanilla beans (I used Madagascar beans available at Penzeys)
1 quart vodka
Place the whole vanilla beans in a quart sized jar with a tight fitting lid. Cover the beans with vodka. Place in a cool dark place, like a pantry, for at least 2 months, but longer is better.
As you use the vanilla, continue to add more vanilla beans and vodka to the jar to keep it full.