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Make your own hand-crafted vanilla extract

Sliced and chopped vanilla pieces soaking in the original vodka bottles

Making vanilla extract is not difficult, is very rewarding to prepare, and can be developed and enhanced the longer you steep it.  It starts getting really good after 3-4 months and just gets better with age. 

The Amazonia Vanilla Company prefers the bourbon variety of vanilla, known for its bold and intense flavors and variances.  This variety was named from its origins in the bourbon Islands. 

The Liquid

The extraction requires alcohol and water to pull out the full range of flavors so it is important not to have alcohol content too strong.  The ideal concentration is between 35% and 40% alcohol.  One tablespoon of distilled water may be added to one pint of 80 proof alcohol to reach an ideal concentration of around 35% alcohol. 

It is not necessary to pay for expensive brands of alcohol.  Vodka is often preferred for its neutral taste.  Rums can also be used, but it may overpower the nuances of the vanilla. 

The Vanilla

Purchasing low moisture beans is ideal for more ‘bean’ and less ‘water’. This produces more concentration of flavor.  Homebrewers use between 9 to 16 beans per pint.   The FDA standard requires 1.7 oz of bean per one pint of liquid (see table below). We recommend 12 of our premium beans for one pint of alcohol to reach this strength. 

If you wish to prepare a full quart: double the vanilla and liquid to maintain the proportion, or the concentration can be adjusted based on preferences.

If you wish to prepare the vanilla in the original bottle, be sure to remove about ¼ cup of vodka from a newly opened bottle to allow room for adding the vanilla pieces and two tablespoons of water.

Preparation

Slice lengthwise

Place a vanilla bean on a cutting board and with a paring knife, slit down the length so the tip of the knife is half into the center to expose the inner paste to the liquid.  Then chop the long bean into ½” segments and place in a bottle of the liquid.  Repeat the same for all the beans

That’s it.  Now, just close the bottle.  Once a day, give your bottle a shake.  You can begin using it after one month, while the remainder continues to age and develop.  A quart is wonderful, as it can last for over 3 years and reach its peak while you continue using it.

Chop into segments

After the last drop is used up, don’t throw away the pieces.  Squeeze the last drops, then dry the pieces out in a small dish for several days. Once they are dry and brittle, grind in a spice or coffee grinder.  Add it to recipes, and homemade ice creams, or add the pieces into a jar of sugar to infuse the sugar with vanilla.  There are still nice, mellow flavors not to be wasted.

Liquid (35-40 % alcohol)Weight of beansApproximate # of beans
1 gallon13.35 oz100 beans
1 quart3.34 oz25 beans
1 pint1.7 oz12 beans
Estimates based on Amazonia Vanilla Company beans
Aged vanilla in small glass bottles make great gifts!

Marmalade Upside-Down Vanilla-Bourbon Pudding Cake

Bitter orange to vanilla is like Sonny to Cher…. two divas that compliment each other in the best way!

To make the Cake:

Ingredients

  • 1 whole orange with skin on
  • 1/4 c orange marmalade
  • ½ c unsalted butter
  • ½ c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ c white flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

Directions

  1. Place the orange into a medium saucepan and add water. Bring to the boil and cook for 20–30 minutes until soft.  Drain the water, and blend the orange in a food processor until smooth, taking out any larger solids. 
  2. Grease a 1-quart pudding dish, pyrex or ceramic. Place ¼ c of the marmalade in the base of the dish.   
  3. In a mixing bowl, measure in the ½ c butter and ½ c sugar and whisk until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs and flour and then the ½ tsp baking soda. Add the blended orange and mix it together. 
  4. Pour the mixture on top of the marmalade, cover with greaseproof paper, then the lid. 
  5. Place a large saucepan with boiling water on the stove, then carefully set the pudding dish in the boiling water so the water reaches around the side to halfway up the dish. A double boiler may also be used.   
  6. Place a lid on top of the saucepan trapping most of the steam and heat around the pudding dish, and simmer for two hours. Keep checking the water and top up when necessary.

To Make the Pudding:

Ingredients

  • 1 c of heavy cream
  • 1 c of whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean and scrape the seeds/paste
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ c sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp Bourbon whiskey

Directions

Slice lengthwise
  1. With the tip of a knife, slit a vanilla bean length-wise halfway into the bean, open up the bean and scrape the vanilla paste/seeds into a saucepan of cream and milk, add the bean as well.
  2. Bring to a simmer. Do not allow the mixture to boil over.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heat-proof bowl. Strain the cream mixture over the egg yolks gradually stirring all the time.
  4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat until it thickens – take care to keep stirring and keep the heat low so that it does not scramble. Remove from the heat, add vanilla extract and bourbon

To serve, place a piece of the cake onto a serving plate and pour the hot custard on top.

Crème Brulee

This is way too good, just way too good.  It’s worth a search for duck eggs, even if you have to wade a lot of lakes to do so. It’s easier to patronise a local farmer for duck eggs.  Chicken eggs work as well, but the custard isn’t quite a firm.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream, light cream, or half and half
  • 1 Amazonian Vanilla Bean, split lengthwise and scraped out
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 duck egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar, more for topping

Directions

Step 1
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.  In a saucepan, combine cream, vanilla and salt and cook over low heat just until hot.  Let sit for a few minutes.
  2. In a bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until light. Stir about a quarter of the warm cream into this mixture, then pour the partially warmed egg yolk and sugar mixture into the cream and stir.  Pour into ramekins and set them into a baking dish.  Pour boiling water into the baking dish until it comes halfway up the ramekins. 
  3. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until centers are barely set.  Cool completely. Refrigerate for several hours or up to a couple of days.
  4. When ready to serve, top each ramekin with a thin layer of sugar, about a teaspoon.  Place 2-3 inches from broiler, and turn it on.  Broil until sugar is browned, but not black, watching carefully.  If you serve it immediately, the top will be warm and the custard will still be cold!  Any extra can be refrigerated for up to several days.  

Ecuadorian Colada Maracuya

This is a very common Ecuadoran breakfast beverage. It is slightly thick with a hearty oat flavor complemented by the opulent vanilla and tangy fruit.  Serve it warm or chilled.   It is amazing!  It’s worth trying the option using naranjillo or persimmons!!

20 minutes of preparation time

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 passion fruits (or 1/3 cup of passion fruit juice)
  • 2 naranjillos or 2 well ripened persimmons (alternative: 1 cup crushed pineapple)
  • 1 three-inch stick of cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar if using naranjillo or persimmon, but 2/3 cup if using pineapple
  • 1 cup of oatmeal

Directions

Step 3
Step 6
  1. Soak the oats in 1 cup of water.
  2. Separately blend the passion fruit pulp for only 5 seconds to keep the seeds somewhat intact.
  3. In a saucepan combine the 7 cups of water and, the cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean (split) and the brown sugar, bring this mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. The last 5 minutes add the passion fruit pulp and smashed naranjillo or persimmon (or the alternative: crushed pineapple.
  4. Remove and let cool down until safe to handle, at this point strain the warm fruit and vanilla mixture.
  5. Blend about 2 cups of this mixture with the soaked oats.
  6. Press the blended oat mixture through a strainer and combine it with the strained fruit mixture in a saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally, let it boil until it thickens and loses the raw oat flavor, about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and strain again if desired.
  8. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. 
  9. Serve warm for breakfast or on cold days and cold with ice on warm days.

Vanilla and Conservation

“We bring people together over good food.

However, our customers, our producers and us have something else in common. Guayusa Runa and Amazanga are two Kichwa communities located in the Pastaza county of the Pastaza province.  In recent decades communities like these have relied on farming, running cattle, artisan crafts, petroleum jobs, or government projects to make an income.

These communities are from the Llanganates-Sangay Ecological Corridor an area considered as a priority for conservation efforts due to its strategic location, diversity of fauna and flora, variety of habitats and ecosystems.  It was designated recently a “Gift of the Earth” and sits above the largest watershed in the world, the Amazon.  The region is extremely biodiverse due to its proximity to the equator, high levels of precipitation, and geological and topographical variation.  The continent of Europe is 19,500 times larger than Mera county but has 2.2 times less species of trees. The 55 km2 Río Anzu headwaters contain 150% of the amphibian diversity of all of Canada, an area 180,000 times larger.  The corridor is home to five species of big cats, representing perhaps the greatest localized diversity of felines in the world.

This area is under significant threat as mining and oil exploitation are driving out indigenous residents.  Once roads are cut into the forest, homesteaders arrive and cut timber for cash and then pasture cattle.  With very fragile tropical soils, these pastures do not sustain beyond a few years.  Like always, and as it always will be, people are looking for a way to make a living.  Some people have settled for “easy” work with petroleum companies and meanwhile, the land and water therein have been contaminated, and the people who truly belong to this place have been disenfranchised from it.

These communities are seeking alternatives to the destructive and inefficient land-use practices often promoted in the Amazon.

The Amazonia Vanilla Company found small scale vanilla producers and realised they had no market and they lacked techniques to grow vanilla, even though vanilla is a native plant to the Amazon.   We teamed up with these producers and began peer trainings, and started investing in their plantations.  We all are excited about the quality of the amazonian vanilla. 

The production of vanilla is a much more efficient use of land than almost any other agricultural practice.  

One head of cattle needs approximately 2.5 acres of pasture in the Amazon and can provide a maximum annual income of $400.  The same income can come from 10 vanilla plants on a space of 30 square feet. 

Vanilla requires shade, so vanilla can be grown under the forest canopy.  The Amazonia Vanilla Company’s producers grow ecologically sustainable crop and adhere to forest preservation and replanting of trees.   

There are additional benefits.  Vanilla byproducts can be used to make various artisan crafts, as well as incorporated into volunteer and tourism projects.  Lastly, vanilla products are small and lightweight, meaning the environmental impact of distribution is very low.

At the Amazonian Vanilla Company, we overtly chose to work in the Amazon with indigenous producers.  We don’t source from massive greenhouse complexes along the coast.  Our model of business is to empower and benefit producers from these Amazonian communities and connect them to conscientious consumers all over the world. Yes, this region provides us with a true “gift of the earth”. Thanks in advance for choosing us!

Amazing Exotic Eggnog

This eggnog has become the Christmas tradition in our family, it takes priority over opening presents and checking Christmas stockings.  It comes before that morning coffee.  It is our way of waiting and recognizing a special moment, savoring something special.

20 minutes of preparation time, ready in 6 hours

Ingredients

  • 5 cups milk
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon of extract)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 2  ½ cup light rum
  • 3 cups cream  
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract  
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. Cut a vanilla bean in half. Slit one half of the bean down the length of the bean with tip of the along one side. Open apart the bean and scrape the seeds, and place the seeds in the 4 cups of milk, add the scraped vanilla pod, cloves and cinnamon in a saucepan and heat over lowest setting for 5 minutes. Slowly bring the milk mixture to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk together until fluffy. Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into the eggs. Pour the mixture into saucepan. Cook over medium heat , stirring constantly for 3 minutes, or until it just thickens. Do not allow mixture to boil. Strain to remove cloves and let cool for about an hour.
  3. Stir in rum, cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and nutmeg. Refrigerate overnight before so flavor blend. Remove the vanilla bean husk.

* The vanilla bean husk can be rinsed well, then air dried.  Place into a small jar of sugar, and store with lid for one month, shaking it every few days: you now have infused sugar! 

Vanilla Bean Kentucky Bourbon Pudding

This vanilla bean pudding is thick, opulent, and creamy. Kentucky Bourbon accentuates the vanilla. Exotic!

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Kentucky Bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Begin with 1 cup of the milk and the cream in a saucepan. Slice the length of the vanilla bean with a paring knife to split it open lengthwise and with the tip of the knife, scrape the inner seeds into the pan of milk and cream. Add the bean too. Heat just until it comes to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. While that is heating, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl.
  3. Whisk in the remaining 2/3 cup whole milk, and then the eggs. Once the milk has just come to a simmer, very gradually pour this into the cornstarch mixture in the bowl, whisking the whole time.
  4. Return the mixture back into the saucepan and continue whisking.
  5. As the mixture begins to simmer, cook it for one minute longer whisking constantly. Stir in the vanilla extract and bourbon and divide the pudding among 5 or 6 dishes.

This is amazing as a warm pudding, which elevates the flavors. It is also delicious when chilled for a more firm set. However, you prefer it, the warmth of the bourbon and sumptuous vanilla together is a nice touch of the wild, exotic Amazon

Introducing: Vanilla Powder

Vanilla extract is what we are accustomed to using, but vanilla powder is not well known among home chefs.  Most extracts are alcohol based, which evaporate out during the high baking temperature, and some of the flavor also escapes.

Vanilla powder is pure ground vanilla bean and includes the inner seed and paste to pack a lot of flavor.  Under high heat during baking, vanilla powder imparts the intense flavor right into the mixture.  Both the seeds and the vanilla pod contain complementary variations of intense flavors and aroma.  As a general rule, ½ teaspoon of powder is comparable to 1 teaspoon of extract.  

Powder can be added into granulated sugar or brown sugar, and kept in a sealed jar to keep on hand. 

  • Use the vanilla-sugar in morning coffee for a gentle rich complement to coffee, or sprinkle on cookies, donuts or pastries just coming out of the oven. 
  • It can be added and stored in creamed butter to add to recipes requiring butter.
  • Add into rum, brown sugar and butter for a butterscotch sauce.  
  • Mixing it with sea salt and add into seafood, or lightly coat over corn-breads, mole’ sauces.
  • Vanilla and corn is an exotic combination, which goes back millennia to the Yucatan Aztecs, who reserved a concoction of vanilla, cacao, maize and hot peppers only for warriors to impart strength and vitality.

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