Real Bourbon Vanilla Extract

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So I know that “Bourbon vanilla extract” doesn’t refer to using actual bourbon– it’s referring to vanilla beans from the Bourbon island of Madagascar– but I like bourbon and I like vanilla, so why not combine the two to make an amped-up version of vanilla extract?

The problem is that vanilla beans have skyrocketed in price over the last few years– six or seven years ago I bought a half-pound of beautiful, plump beans for a reasonably low price, and it lasted me ages, but now that I’m in the market for more it was a lot harder to find any reasonably-priced beans. I finally found a source on eBay, but they did give fair warning that the beans are pretty dry and not good for much besides making extract. They turned out exactly as described– thin, shriveled, and dry– and I certainly wouldn’t use these in baking since there’s not much “vanilla caviar” inside at all, but they’re fine for my purposes now.

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Vanilla extract really couldn’t be easier to make– you just split your beans in half and plunk them into a bottle of your favorite spirit. Like I said, I like bourbon, and for a 750 ml bottle I used about twenty of these extremely dry, tiny beans. I think with better-quality beans you could use about 10-15 instead.

Anyway, I’ll let these soak for about 3 months before I start using the extract. In my experience you can just leave the beans in there, though some people like to remove them and strain out any bits at the bottom of the bottle. I read that you can pour off the extract into a new bottle and just re-use the beans, maybe adding in some new ones and taking out any particularly soggy ones, for a whole new batch– I may try it eventually.

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Cherry-Bourbon-Chocolate Ice Cream

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It’s summer, which means that it’s time to make ice cream! I haven’t made ice cream in ages, but I had my annual Ice Cream Social coming up, which meant I needed to get going again!

The first recipe that really caught my eye this season was Alton Brown’s Serious Vanilla Ice Cream. What intrigued me was the addition of peach preserves to the mix, which supposedly don’t affect the vanilla flavor but instead add a unique texture to the ice cream. I was eager to give it a try myself, but was mindful of the fact that plain vanilla wouldn’t necessarily tempt my guests when compared with the more exotic flavors that were sure to be on hand. So I gave the matter some thought and settled on the addition of bourbon-soaked cherries. And then chocolate, because why not?

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Real Eggnog

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I was in high school before I learned that “eggnog” could be made at home, rather than just purchased in¬†colorful cartons at the grocery store around Christmas– imagine my surprise when I discovered that some people made it from scratch, and that it was considered (gasp) refreshing! “Refreshing” was about as far from my experience of eggnog as it could get– eggnog as I knew it was sickly sweet and cloyingly thick.¬†Probably based on that impression, despite my newfound knowledge I had no desire to actually make the stuff, particularly as it apparently involved raw eggs, which did not strike me as particularly palatable.

Fast forward several (okay, more than just several) years, and I’ve decided to take the plunge and try Alton Brown’s recipe for traditional (uncooked) eggnog.

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