Sunday, January 27, 2013

Extract Update

They are still just sitting there. The lemon and coffee extracts smell great. The minty smells okay. I expected it to be mintier though. I'm not sure what to think about the almond.

Feeding My Sourdough

When I decided to begin a sourdough starter, I did this knowing full well we would be going on a snowboarding trip. So? Well, a starter needs to be fed. I did this right before we left. Then again today. That makes a week between feedings I guess we will see how it goes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More Extracts

If you can find an extract in the store, chances are that you can make it at home.  With the vanilla going well so far, I decided to spread my wings and try a few others.  Just a few.

Front-Almond   Back-Meyer Lemon, Mint, Mint, Coffee

Generally you want to use a liquor that has little taste or smell of its own.  The best, at least by consensus, seems to be vodka.  Being a busy mom who home schools, I could do a little research to let you know the hows and whys of the proof you select, but, I'm not going to. There are plenty of websites that will tell.  Like I tell my son, go do your homework :-O  I will tell you that the one thing that should sway your choice as to brand is that you should want to drink it.  Spend what you want.  Just make sure you like it.

As with the vodka, (or gin, white rum, some even use Kentucky bourbon, or gold rums) quality ingredients are key.  I always buy the best I can or grow it myself.  Organic, non-GMO, responsibly sourced, that's up to you.  Here are the 4 extracts I have steeping right now: Meyer Lemon, Mint, Coffee, and Almond. They are all easy, much less expensive that what you buy in the store, and you made them!

Here are the basic instructions for ALL of the extracts, followed by any specific instructions for each individual flavor.  These directions will make you approximately 1 cup of extract. (that means they each have 1 cup of vodka!)  I used pint jars.

Place the flavoring base in a **sterilized mason jar (any glass, air-tight container will work).  Cover with the vodka and shake once or twice a week for at least 4 weeks.  The extract will be usable at this time, but the longer you let it sit, the better.  When ready to use, strain into a sterilized glass container through a fine wire sieve on a funnel.  Pretty bottles make pretty gifts.  Store in a dark cabinet.  These can last for years.

Meyer Lemon

Take the zest of 2 lemons no pith (white) and cover with vodka

Meyer lemon (Any citrus fruit will work, this is what I had on hand)


Put coffee beans in a baggie and roll with a rolling pin or pulse grind in you grinder.  You want them chunky though.

4 tbsp coarsely crushed coffee beans (I got fresh ones from our new local roaster in Guthrie, OK-Hoboken Coffee Roasters-you must get by there if in Guthrie) covered with vodka.

Hoboken Coffee


Strip the leaves from the stems and muddle lightly or coarsely chop.  Loosely pack into jar and cover with vodka.  This may take a little more than a cup of vodka.

I chose tis vodka because I like their gin and it had a $5 rebate

Mint leaves


Blanch your almonds if they have skins, or you can buy blanched almonds.  You will need about 30 almonds.  Chop coarsely and cover with vodka.  Just a note on almond extract, commercial extracts are made with bitter almonds.  Apparently they have a pretty good amount of a cyanide compound and this makes it unsafe to try to use them to make your own extract.  I am using regular sweet almonds that you can purchase anywhere.  This is what all the recipes I have seen use.  I don't think the smell or the flavor will be as strong, but we will see.

Chopped almonds

Almond Extract

How do you blanch an almond?  Bring a small pan of water to a boil, add almonds and remove after 30 seconds.  Place quickly into cold water.  Drain on paper towel.  Pinch almonds between thumb and finger like shooting a marble and shoot away.  They should pop right out of their skins.  Put any unused ones in the fridge or toast them.

Well, there you go!  Hope you try it.  I can't wait to try mine!!

**You can sterilize the jars and lids in the dishwasher.  They may be fine if you just wash them, after all you are using alcohol, but if you want to be sure, use the dishwasher.

Sourdough: Days 2 and 3

Day 2

You can see the difference from the original mixture.  It is much more fluid and there are bubbles starting to form.  All I did today was take its picture.

Starting to look like starter

Day 3
Definitely a different look and aroma.  I don't know what starter is supposed to smell like.  It is not a yeasty smelling as I thought it might be.  I divided it up and fed one 1/2.  The other half I tested to see if it was ready to use.  According the the cup of water test it was.  What's that?  Take a small spoonful of the starter and put in a cup of room temperature water.  If it floats it is producing enough carbon dioxide to leaven a loaf of bread.  If it sinks, let it go a little longer. It floated and I started my first ever batch of English muffins.  The dough will rest for the night and I will make fresh muffins in the morning.


is it ready to use?

Yes, it is ready to go!

Has a nice, stringy texture

Dough for English muffins

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Vanilla Update

It has been right at 3 months since I started my latest batch if vanilla. Here it is. Now to find some nice bottles to put it in.

A First for Me: Sourdough

I have always loved sourdough bread.  Mainly because it is bread.  I also love the rich flavor and its texture.  It always seemed too much of a hassle to make though.  It takes several days to make the starter itself.  Then like a pet or a child you have to feed it and take care of it.  Fortunately you don't have to clean its room or pick up after it.  Hopefully it won't talk back.  Anyway,  after one friend made English muffins this week and another sent me a sour dough English muffin recipe, I decided to give it a whirl.  Hopefully I can get somewhere before we leave next weekend to snowboard.

I am going to post a daily progress on how it all goes.  If it goes well, I'll put them all together into one easy-to-read post.

Day One:

Here is the easy part!

In a large glass or ceramic bowl add equal parts, by weight or volume, warm water and flour.  Since I am new to this I went small.

250 grams filtered water
125 grams whole wheat flour
125 grams unbleached all purpose flour

Mix this together and cover with plastic wrap.  Set on the counter for a couple of days.  The natural yeast in the air, flour, and all around will be all you need to get started.

**The science behind sourdough starter?  "Sourdough starter is used in baked goods because it contains an organism that is able to produce the gasses that give baked goods their lightness. This organism is a type of yeast, and is alive (until killed by the heat of baking). It feeds on carbohydrates (such as flour or sugar) and produces gas and alcohol (which the old "sourdough" miners called "hooch") as byproducts. It must be fed and protected from extremes of temperature and anything else which might kill it. Given proper care and conditions, it will live and reproduce itself for years." -  by Richard Packham

Here is his entire article post.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Latest Kitchen Venture:Vinegar

It never fails, after a dinner party, we always have left over wine.  Sometimes almost full bottles.  Since we don't drink much wine ourselves I either have to find a way to cook with it or dump it.  Now I may not drink much of it, but just dumping any sort of alcohol should be a crime!  So what's a girl to do?  Be creative or be resourceful!  That's when I turned to the ever trusted Google.  Why I did not think of this before, I'm not sure, but the obvious thing to do is sitting right in the pantry-wine vinegar!  Quality wine vinegar can be hard to find.  Being mass produced leads to shortcuts and cost cutting measures.  It is also usually pasteurized.  Vinegar is a living, breathing entity and as such has added health benefits. (You can Google thousands of links to find these out.)  Kill the vinegar, kill the benefits.

How do you make your own vinegar?  You need a good mother.  Not the one who raised you and made you who you are today, but a vinegar mother.  What is that?  It is a slimy, yeasty, gelatinous goo that causes the further fermentation of the wine into a vinegar.  Some people say they have had success using the mother from an ACV (apple cider vinegar) that has not been filtered or pasteurized (Bragg's).  Others suggest using a mother for the specific type of wine you are making into vinegar, white or red.  I figured the people who were selling it online knew what they were doing, so I ordered both a white and a red mother.


You also need a good wine.  Does this mean expensive?  No!  This means would you drink it?  If you like the way it tastes as a wine, then you should like it as a vinegar.  Type of wine doesn't matter either: Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay, whatever.  I had some Merlot left over (two bottles, two makers) so this is what I started with.

What else do you need?  Some filtered (non-chlorinated) water, a glass jar or a earthenware crock-preferably with a spigot for easier taste testing, cheesecloth, and a bit of time and patience.  This will be a two to three month venture.

Here is what I have done so far:

2 cups of wine (plus 7 1/2 more over the next week)
1 cup filtered water
8 ounce jar of purchased vinegar mother (
1-2 gallon glass or earthenware crock (Crocks run about $70-90 and sun tea jars about $4, whatever you want to spend)

Mix your ingredients together in a clean container.  Make sure your jar is clean and sanitized.. A hot dishwasher will do the trick.  Cover the opening with a double layer of cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band.  The fermentation process needs air, do not cap the jar.  Fermentation also requires a fairly warm and constant temperature, ideally 70-80 degrees.  I found that our water heater closet provides the warmth, constancy,  and darkness that the vinegar will need.  Just make sure it is fairly dust free.  Any dark cabinet should work, but preferably not one that is opened up a lot.

**Let this set for a week, then over the next week add 2 1/2 cups of wine, 3 different days until you have added the remaining 7 1/2 cups.  Let's say M-W-F.  You may have a sort of veil forming on the liquid by this time.  This is a new mother forming.  Like most moms she doesn't like to be disturbed while she is regenerating, disturb her a little as possible when adding the new wine.  A Turkey baster may work very well.  Add SLOWLY.

Now leave it alone.  Mom needs some me time if she is to get all of her work finished.  You can check on her in about two months.  Now is when the spigot will be handy.  If it smells like vinegar, everything should be hunky dory, if it smells like nail polish, it is time to throw it out and try again.

So let's say you are pleased with your taste test.  You can now strain to remove sediments and store in sterilized glass containers, or just keep it in the crock and use as needed.  I haven't gotten this far yet, but you can apparently just add wine to it as you use it and keep the vinegar going.  New mothers will form and old ones will die and sink to the bottom.  Take them out carefully.

**I misread the original instructions and began to add my extra wine the first week.  As I typed this i realized my mistake.  We'll see what happens.  I have at least tow months to go before it is ready.  It does already have a vinegar smell to it.

Also, many comments I read on other sites said they used canning jars or their empty wine bottles.  You will just have to adjust amounts accordingly.  I got this recipe from  There is also one on the jar of mother I ordered.