You be the judge

Aug 31, 22
You be the judge

So, which would you choose, the thin dried vanilla bean?  Or the plump, natural oils, full of caviar (seeds) vanilla bean?  So why would you accept vanilla extract made from Grade B beans?  This is why I only use the Gourmet Grade A highest quality, full, large, plump, oils & full of caviar, vanilla beans in making my extracts.  Yes, some are expensive.  But you’ve heard of “You get what you pay for”, right?

What about the alcohol used?  Do you want bottom barrel, bottom shelf, essentially moonshine alcohol?  Or even any alcohol you wouldn’t drink yourself.  You choose middle to top shelf brands, for the best quality, flavor experience.  So once again, if you’re adding an extract, vanilla or flavoring, to your recipe.  Why would you accept an extract that is made with an alcohol you wouldn’t drink much less use in your recipe.  Of course not.  This again is why we, at Gourmet Vanilla ‘n’ Spice, we use top shelf alcohols.  And we’ve gone a step further, to accept the testing that was done, with several brands of the same alcohol (for example Vodka), and which one produced the most pleasing vanilla extract using the same beans & same method to process & same steeping time.  These brands were graded A_ to F, and I only use the A+ brands, as they’ve been proven to produce the best vanilla extract experience.

Now, what about the method of making vanilla extract?  Some say to tie the bean into a knot.  Some say to leave it whole, others to chop them into pieces or even grind them.  So lets think about this.  Tying and leaving whole, saves the bean to be used after the extract in further applications.  However, it’s not releasing the wonderful caviar inside.  Some say there is no flavor in the caviar.  Then why is there vanilla bean powder and vanilla bean paste?  Where the caviar is the key.  So, our method, is to simply cut both ends (add them to the jar), slice the vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise, exposing the caviar, and the wonderful oils, for the fullest flavor to develop in the extract.

Some say only a few (2-3) beans in a bottle of alcohol, even into the alcohol bottle, wait a couple months (or few weeks), and you have vanilla.  The FDA has a standard set for the proper number (by weight/ounces) of vanilla beans to the amount of alcohol, and the percentage of alcohol for REAL true vanilla.  We follow the FDA standards, which means we weight EACH BATCH of vanilla beans and carefully measure our alcohols for the proper balance.  Then we seal the beans and alcohol into a jar, I choose canning jars with sealing lids.  You don’t want any evaporation.  And we store them in a dark location completely away from any heat source, windows (sun), and we allow them to steep a FULL year or more.  18 months for Bourbon vanilla.  We also shake our jars, every jar, in the beginning, daily, even a couple times a day.  Then we stretch it out to 2-3 times a week, and then once a week for a FULL YEAR.  This mixes the beans and caviar that sinks to the bottom, to be incorporated into the alcohol.  This takes a lot of patience, dedication (to shaking), and the reward is the best vanilla extract that can be made.

Then when the vanilla is done, we can test the flavor with whip cream or milk.  The color, aroma, and then flavor that we’ve produced a very high-quality vanilla.  Next, we simply take sterilized jars, and we carefully fill our bottles.  We’ve developed out own labels.  Another added touch, I try to catch some of the caviar into each bottle, and often I cut the beans into small slices and add a piece to each jar also.

We take the same painstakingly detailed steps with our flavoring extracts.  We again use only top shelf alcohols (usually Vodka), and then we respect our customers wishes of organic quality.  So the fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices we seek to use organic.  Our “ingredients” such as the fruits or nuts, must be changed every 2-3 weeks or the fruits will turn bitter.  Some ingredients such as spices, may be added later in the process.  Just like Vanilla, the flavorings are shaken several times a week, then once a week, to incorporate the flavors.  However, it only takes 6 to 9 months to create the flavoring extracts compared to the vanilla taking 12-18 months.  At this point, we strain off the “ingredients”, and the remaining liquid is strained through coffee filters, repeatedly, sometimes only 2-3 times, with thicker more pulpy fruits we strain a dozen times, and we use double filters.  So if your bottle happens to look a little murky or some sediment settling on the bottom, this is simply some of the pulp that was still suspended in the alcohol, that has eventually settled to the bottom.  You can simply shake it up and use it, or strain it another time or two through a coffee filter.  We do try to get as clear a result as possible before bottling.  So what do you do to use all these wonderful flavors?  Replace vanilla in any recipe with a complimenting flavor.  Add cinnamon to French toast, apple pie flavoring to your apple pie or apple crisp.  Add peach to your peach cobbler.  Cajun makes a wonderful marinade.  We have Kahlua and coffee flavors to your cup of coffee.  Fruits and spiced flavors for a smoothie, a smoothie bowel.  Use in any baking, cakes, muffins, cookies, sauces, ice cream, fudge.  You get the idea.

What about vanilla bean infused honey?  We take a plump Grade A vanilla bean, cut it into half or thirds, to fit the jar, fill with locally produced honey.  We then turn the jar upside down, then right side up, over and over again for a week before we leave it alone to incorporate the vanilla flavor into the honey.

And vanilla bean sugar.  We take our vanilla beans, spread sugar in a baking sheet pan, place the vanilla beans around the pan, add more sugar, and let them rest for a few days.  If we’re adding orange rind at the same time, it’s added with the vanilla beans.  When we can smell the vanilla (and orange) flavor in the sugar, we then remove the vanilla beans and the orange rind (no pith on the rind), and we process these until they are powder.  We then mix them into the sugar, and mix them well, then package the sugar with vanilla bean powder and orange rind powder together.  Sometimes we’ve included spices in our sugar combination.  So what do you do with this sugar?  You can flavor your coffee or tea, add to oatmeal cereal, bake with it, and then sprinkle sugar mixture over your batter bread, muffins, cookies for added flavor.  It can be used in any way you use regular sugar or plain honey.  Same with the vanilla infused salt, it’s processed the same way the sugar is. 

And then we have our specialty of vanilla bean powder.  I have to tell a story here, a lesson learned.  After my vanilla was done, I remove the vanilla beans, and I allow them to dry in a pan over night.  At this point, I put the pan into an oven 170 degrees, to further dry the beans.  I had just stepped away from being in-front of the oven door, when I heard a huge bang, and I saw my oven door come open, and a large ball of fire came out of my oven.  It was a flash fire, it was out just as fast (thank the Lord).  But the lesson I learned, is there is still enough alcohol in the processed beans, that it caught fire even with a low temp oven.  So now, I only use fresh vanilla beans, I slice them and prepare them as I would for making extract.  But then I dehydrate them in the oven.  I still use the grade A beans as I want all the flavor I can get (oils and caviar).  After they have dried to a “snap” dry state, I process them.  I then sift the batch, and process the pieces.  I repeat this process until the end result is a fine powder of vanilla beans.  If you have a recipe that is delicate to the balance of dry & liquid, such as macrons, using the vanilla bean powder is better than using extract.

Vanilla Bean paste is cooked in a large pot on the stove top.  This recipe takes a couple hours.  The paste is a bit sticky, and full of caviar.  You can use it measure for measure as you would in a recipe calling for vanilla.  This is a beautiful way to have the seeds mixed in with your ice cream, vanilla cake or vanilla frosting, or pudding.

And what about our wonderful Spice Blends. We take fresh imported raw spices, we roast them in the oven or toast them in a pan on the stove, not large batches so they are done just right.  Then we grind them fine (sometimes course, depending upon the recipe).  Again, sifting and regrinding the larger pieces.  Then they are stored in a canning jar, in a dark cool place to preserve the flavors.  We’ve obtained “Authentic” recipes from several countries around the world that have a spice blend famous to that country or region.  We follow these recipes, and bottle our Spice Blends.  So you’re receiving a spice blend that has NOT sat months in a warehouse, and months in a store.  So, what do you do with these spice blends?  Many recipes are online, and eventually will be on our website.  A simple way is to add 1 tablespoon to 1 pound of meat, or sprinkle as seasoning over vegetables, in mash potatoes.  Add to meatballs, hamburgers, meatloaf, to change the flavor to something exotic.  Create a marinate or glaze flavored with the spices, for over chicken, pork chops, steak, salmon on your grill.  It’s not hard, just try in many dishes, recipes, grilling, roasting, cooking.

And our heavenly Rooibos teas, imported rooibos from South Africa, is blended with flowers, spices, herbs to create amazing aromatic flavors of tea.  With all the health benefits of rooibos, not found in even green tea, naturally no caffeine (not decaffeinated), never turns bitter, it’s own sweetness you can enjoy without adding additional sweeteners or milk.  Enjoy hot, in the morning, to relax in the evening, as ice tea during hot summer days.

And the “Seasonal Special” that we can’t offer during hot summer days.  As we don’t use preservatives, this item would melt & be spoiled before you’d be able to enjoy it as it’s shipped in a hot trailer, maybe for days.  So we’ve decided to offer it during the cool to cold winter months where it’s similar to being in a refrigeration.  I’m talking about our, out of this world, nut butters.  These are JUST the NUTS, pure, no oils, no salts, no additives, just a smooth amazing nut butter from any variety of nuts.  Some specialty nut butters are made with adding spice, mixing various nuts, or adding a fruit powder to create flavors you will surely love.  These nut butters should be refrigerated (again, no preservatives are used), if a little “cold stiff”, simply leave on the counter until your done preparing the rest of Breakfast or Lunch, so it's warmed up slightly to be more spreadable.  Imagine a peanut butter cookie, using other nuts instead.  What an amazing holiday treat.  A sweet gift for a teacher, coworker, boss, minister, neighbor, best friend, relative who has everything, so many would love this gift.  Try something exotic in your batter bread, fudge.    Watch the website, there may be a few other seasonal specials coming.

So, which will you choose?  We’re ready to fill your order, and exceed your expectations.

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