Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wild things

When it's flowering it's hard to call the thistle a weed.  The flower is so striking.  I always find it amusing that the thistle is the flower of Scotland.  It's supposed to represent the beauty but thorny nature of Scotland under the British rule. 

The little bunnies are white tailed jack rabbits.  I caught them out in the front of Prairie Cairn Cottage last night.  I thought we had jack rabbits and cotton tails but after a quick internet search I discovered these are actually white tailed jacks.  No matter, at this age they remain cute.  Once they get full grown, well, that's a different story, I'm afraid they might abscond with Little Black Brindle.  But for now they are welcome.

After reading a magazine article on making your own extracts I thought I would try my hand at it.  This morning I made up some lemon extract and vanilla extract.  Earlier in the month I made up some raspberry extract and some mint extract.  It's pretty darn easy if I do say so, we'll just have to post back how they work in baked goods.

The basic recipe is 1/4 cup berries or mint leaves, 3 to 4 vanilla beans halved then split length wise or the zest from two lemons (you could also use oranges or grapefruits if that suits your fancy) which ever you want to make.  To each of these you cover with 1 cup of alcohol.  I used vodka in the raspberries, lemons and mint and some whiskey in the vanilla.  The recipe I got for the vanilla called for vodka, bourbon or brandy.  Shake the mixtures daily for 3 to 4 weeks.  If it is strong enough for your tastes then you drain the berries and mint but you can just leave the vanilla and lemon zest in the jars.  If you'd like a stronger extract for the raspberry and mint, you'd strain it and then add some fresh berries or mint and repeat the procedure.  If you run low on the vanilla or lemon extract you can just add additional alcohol and let it sit for several weeks.  It's supposed to take a long time for them to lose their flavoring.   

The Mexican vanilla you can buy uses bourbon so I went to the store to buy some.  The clerk at the liquor store told me that bourbon is actually bourbon whiskey.  It can only be called bourbon if it was distilled in Kentucky.  I had some pretty good  Canadian whiskey at home so thought I'd go ahead and use that.  If it doesn't make good extract we will just use it as vanilla infused whiskey.  Who knows, maybe we could come up with a new cocktail!

Wouldn't a gift basket of these in a smaller 2 oz size make a great hostess gift for the upcoming holidays?  Or perhaps you have a baker in your gift exchange.  Either way, try your hand at home crafted extracts. 

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