Monthly Archives: September 2011

My Vanilla Experiment- The Results

Eight weeks ago I decided to try making my own vanilla extract. I had seen it floating around the web, so when I finally got my hands on some vanilla beans (they are ridiculously expensive in my little town) I wanted to make something that would make these suckers last. Enter My Vanilla Experiment.

So now I have a mason jar full of dark amber liquid that smells very vanilla-y…. but its it good?

I thought I would whip up some vanilla pudding and find out.

I pitted my result against a real deal vanilla bean, and the store bought stuff. And the verdict?

In one pudding there was a vanilla bean, and the other two there was 2 tsp of either vanilla.

Mr Ginge, his mom, and myself all agreed that the real deal vanilla bean was the clear winner. Plus all of the seeds looked so pretty in the pudding.

The (close) runner up was my homemade vanilla. Mr Ginge had a hard time deciding between the two. I thought that it was maybe just a tad mild.

And the store bought brand?  Well lets just say it did not fair too well. The flavor was much more intense and it plain didn’t taste as nice.

So while my experiment lost out to the actual vanilla bean, we completely favored it over the store bought. We did decide however that it needed a few more weeks, especially since we made ours in such a large quantity.

Funny though, since the taste test, my store bought vanilla has mysteriously disappeared…..





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My Vanilla Experiment-Part 5

Yay! It’s officially Fall!

Which also means it has been eight weeks since I started my vanilla experiment, and I should have wonderful homemade vanilla extract waiting for me in that mason jar. How exciting!

When I started the experiment, it was just a few beans swimming in some vodka. Vodka is a relatively neutral base, but my research showed that rum would also be an excellent choice ( I’m not a fan though), and I had a friend suggest using whiskey.

While eight weeks was the recommended steep time, I decided to check on it periodically.  I was amazed at how much color it had after only a couple weeks. It still smelled mostly of vodka though. So I added a few more beans.

After four weeks, the color was considerably darker, and it smelled so strongly of vanilla, I wanted to test it out right there and then! Some how I found the patience, and set it back in our “wine cellar” where I was keeping it.

After six weeks, it was darker still, although by not as much.  Most of the little seeds would sink to the bottom, so both Mr. Ginge and I would give it a shake every once in a while.

And this is what it looks like after eight:

I will admit I was expecting a darker, richer color. However, it smelled UH-maz-ING. You can still smell the alcohol in it, but vanilla is definitely what you smell first. I have yet to taste it yet, but if it doesn’t turn out, Mr Ginge is more than willing to adopt it for his bar ( secretly he’s been wishing this from the start!).

Compared to the store bought bottle, the color is waaaayyyy off. I have 9 beans in my jar, it just over 3 cups of liquid. Not sure if more beans would deepen the color, or letting it steep a bit longer. Or maybe I’m competing with coloring. I had to rip the label off to take a picture an never thought to look. Oops…

All that is left to do is the taste test…. 🙂


Categories: Misc. | Tags: | 1 Comment

Making Apple Sauce with Gran.

When I was younger, we often spent every weekend at my grandparents farm. Some of my most fond memories involve visits there. I have fond memories of how her kitchen would always smell amazing ( she was an amazing cook and I often get requests to recreate something that she made), and miss the old wall paper and table, that have since been replaced since she passed.

One fond memory I have is making apple sauce with her. Many of the fields on the farm were lined with apple trees. When they were ready, Grandpa would pile my brother and I in the loader and drive us out to one of the apple trees. We’d then hop into the bucket and he would raise us up so that we could reach the trees. I remember it seeming soooo high up (although I imagine it wasn’t), but we’d pick the apples from the trees and drop them in the bucket along with us. When we’d had enough, we’d carry our armful of apples back to the house and Gran would turn them into apple sauce for us. She’d boil up the apples that we’d brought in and we’d watch her press them through her sieve, and watch the apple sauce squish through the holes.

I always remember us picking soooo many apples, but apparently that wasn’t the case. Mom often tells how we’d come in with five or six puny apples for her to sauce, and she would send us home with a teeny tiny container of sauce to take in our lunches the next day.

She passed when I was ten, and it’s memories like these that I hold dear.

Last year, while helping out my paternal grandmother ( who celebrated her 90th birthday this year!) with a yard sale, I noticed that she had an apple sieve ( Dad says that he never remembers his mom using for apple sauce, but it’s just something I will always associate it with) for sale, and both Mom and I were overcome with nostalgia. Needless to say it made the trip home with me that day. And when I was given a some apples recently, I knew exactly what I was going to do.

Now there isn’t really a recipe for Gran’s apple sauce, it basically was pick some apples, boil them up and pass them trough the sieve, but there are a few things that made it special: The sieve, foever to be linked in my mind with apple sauce, and she would cook them with the skins on.  They don’t pass through the sieve, and they gave the apple sauce a pretty pink color (Note: I have found that not all apples will do this, so I guess it depends on the apple you are going to use).

Kinda reminds me of the aliens from War of the

Gran’s Apple Sauce:

  • apples
  • sugar, to taste (optional, I use brown)
  • cinnamon, to taste (optional)
  1. Quarter your apples, trimming the stems and the blossom ends
  2. Put them in a pot, add some water and bring to a gentle boil.
  3. Cook them till soft, and will pass through the sieve easily. This can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes depending on the apple you are using.
  4. Press the apples through the sieve, a few at a time, removing skin, cores, and seeds from the sieve as needed.
  5. Stir in the cinnamon and the sugar a couple tablespoons at a time until you reach your desired taste. Most of the time I find that sugar isn’t needed, however if you happen to be using a tart apple ( like I was) sugar is sometimes needed.
  6. Transfer to your desired containers and store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze for up to  year.



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My Vanillla Experiment- Part 4

Guess what.

Only two more weeks to go and I’ll be testing my vanilla! I’m so excited!

So this is what it looks like after 6 weeks. Little bit darker. Lots of vanilla aroma. Hopefully the flavor will stand up in my baking!

Any ideas on what I should test it out on first?

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Summer to Fall…

It is hard to believe that the last long weekend of the summer is upon us. School will be starting back up next week, and the next long weekend to look forward to here in Canada is Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving! Where on earth has the summer gone?

Lately we have been having some very cool, fall-like weather. Morning is cool and brisk, and it doesn’t heat up to much by the end of the day. I even noticed this morning some leaves on the trees that were trying to change. Crazy! Soon the drive to work will look like this!

I’m excited. I LOVE fall. It is my absolute favorite time of the year. And while I am ready for fall to be here, there are some things that I will miss about summer:

1. Barbecues on the patio with the fam.

2. Summer shoes.

3. Cruising the flea markets.

4. Fresh strawberries. And fresh raspberries. And fresh peaches. And fresh melon!

5. Corn on the cob.

6. Long days where its still daylight at 9 o’clock at night.

While I will miss these things, these are my favorite things about fall:

1. Crisp mornings and cooler days

2. Thanksgiving and Halloween.

3. Fall at the Farmers Market.

4. Leaves. The color. The smell. The crunch under foot.

5. Fall baking and the return of warm comfort foods.

6. Spicy smelling everything. Coffees. Teas. Candles. Yum.

And while my cookies and neither summery or fall-like, they are still yummy. And if you a heading out on a road trip this weekend, getting ready for back-to-school, or are just wanting a chocolate cookie, these will fit the bill.  I made these one night when Mr. Ginge was craving  somethings sweet. They hit the spot for him, I got the seal of approval from his 18mo. old nephew, and they went over well when I brought them into work.

Chewy Double Chocolate Toffee Cookies.

makes about 3 dozen cookies

  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled.
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 pkg dark chocolate chips
  • 1 pkg Skor toffee bits
  1. Preheat your oven to 325ºF.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugars, then cream in the butter.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the melted chocolate.
  4. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients, then gradually add it to the chocolate mixture.
  5. Stir in the chips and the toffee bits.
  6. Scoop out the dough onto some cookie sheets, and bake for about 12-15 minutes.
  7. Let cool for a couple minutes on the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Don’t they look yummy?








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