Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Apples with Vanilla Thyme Butter

Thank you to Trina for entering our savory vanilla bean recipe and letting us all enjoy one of your family’s favorite recipes.  Trina wants everyone to know that she enjoys making cornbread with this recipe…she uses the left over Vanilla Thyme Butter on the cornbread.

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

4 Granny Smith apples (or other crisp apple), cored and cut into 1 inch cubes

2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Toss the sweet potatoes and apples with olive oil and spread on baking pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast at 425 for 30-40 minutes, until sweet potatoes and apples are browned and tender when pierced with a fork.

While the potatoes/apples are roasting, make the Vanilla Thyme Butter

Remove from oven and transfer to a serving platter.  Using a pastry brush, brush the vanilla thyme butter over the warm potatoes/apples.

 

Vanilla Thyme Butter

1 stick of butter, softened

1 small vanilla bean (Shameless plug…1 Premium IndriVanilla vanilla bean)

1 tsp fresh thyme leave, more as desired

Pinch of Salt

Split the vanilla bean and scrape seeds from both sides.

Combine the vanilla seeds, butter, thyme, and salt.

 

And don’t forget the cornbread.  I think Trina would be sad for us if we don’t have cornbread for any extra Vanilla Thyme Butter.  Thanks again Trina for the recipe.  We appreciate everyone who sent in recipes…you guys made it hard to decide which recipe was the best.

 

 

 

 

IndriVanilla vs. Store Vanilla Beans

I started thinking about how our vanilla beans compare to the vanilla beans I can get at local stores.  Knowing that our bean prices are extremely economical, I wanted to also compare the quality, because after all, price isn’t everything.  If you can’t use the vanilla bean, what is the point of buying the bean?  I ended up purchasing 3 different “beans” from 2 stores, although, I found others that I could have purchased as well.  Since I am located in Phoenix, I have a large number of stores to find vanilla beans, but many smaller towns/cities only have grocery stores, no specialty stores.

The first store I visited is a national chain, but is only found in larger cities.  This store carries a variety of items, everything from furniture and household items to European candies/chocolates to toys to spices.  Neither spices nor cooking supplies is their primary business.  I was shocked with what I found.  The prices were not as high as I expected, but I was very disappointed in the first package I picked up.  These 2 beans were being sold for $2.99.  Yes, you are seeing correctly, one of the beans is broken.  The bean has dried out so much, it has broken and according to the expiration date these beans are good until 2015.  I would have been very disappointed if I had just stopped there, but I did some digging and found some that were better.

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In the following pictures, you will see the 3 vanilla beans that I decided to purchase.  Beans #1 & #2 were both purchased at the same stores, while bean #3 was purchased at the local grocery store.  I was very hesitant to purchase the beans in the jars, because I was unable to determine if the beans were soft and moist, or dry and brittle.  Here are the prices of each of the beans.  

#1:  1 Tahitian Vanilla Bean, $3.99 (if purchased on their website, add $4.95 for shipping)

#2:  2 Madagascar Vanilla Beans, $2.99 (if purchased on their website, add $4.95 for shipping)

#3:  2 Madagascar Vanilla Beans, $8.99

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Here are how the vanilla beans measure up to our different grades of vanilla beans.  The 3 “purchased” beans were all very similar in size, right around 6 inches each, which is comparable to our Premium grade beans.

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P=Premium Grade $0.50/each         U=Ultra-Premium $1.00/each               L=Luxury $1.50/each

There were beans at other stores that I could not bring myself to purchase based on the prices (1 bean $10.99–no country of origin; 2 beans from Madagascar for $13.49)…I think you can understand why I couldn’t pay those prices.  I also located several on-line sites that are very well known for cooking supplies and spices, you get 2 beans for $10.00, which would be 20 of our premium vanilla beans.

Based on size and price, the beans from the 1st store are priced nicely if you only need 1-2 beans and if you have access to that store.  But for the price you would pay for the #3 beans, you could purchase 8 beans from us (our shipping starts at $5).  With us, the more you purchase, the cheaper the beans become.  So if you use vanilla beans frequently or would like to use vanilla beans more, our vanilla beans are a very economical choice.  Especially since you learned how to store your vanilla beans indefinitely in our previous blog.

Visit us at www.indrivanilla.com to see our different vanilla bean options, along with cinnamon and pure vanilla powder.

Vanilla Bean Goodness!!!

Recently I decided to update the website and take new pictures of the vanilla beans.  I was actually really pleased with how they turned out.  I am excited that the moisture, plumpness and softness of the vanilla beans can be seen in the pictures.  Our farmer in Indonesia produces such amazing vanilla beans and I am so honored to be able to share them with others.  I hope you all enjoy the pictures as much as I did.  Don’t forget to stop by our site and get some beans for yourself.  www.indrivanilla.com

img_0041Look how many Ultra-Premium vanilla beans you get in 1/2 pound…approximately 70-75 beans.  Look at the moisture and texture on those beans.  So easy to use, these beans are pliable, not brittle and dry like many you will find in grocery stores.  We vacuum seal our beans to help maintain their freshness and moisture.

img_0040Luxury grade vanilla beans, approximately 95-110 vanilla beans per pound.  Luxury grade beans have the highest quantity and quality of caviar of all the beans we offer.  The taste and aroma is absolutely amazing.  This past weekend, I made cinnamon rolls and used a luxury vanilla bean in the icing.  I could have eaten a gallon of the icing.  I wish I had some right now!!!

img_0022Want the most bang for your buck…Premium grade beans are the way to go!!!  Here is a pound, approximately 180-190 vanilla beans.  Think how many wonderful recipes you can make with that many vanilla beans!!!  Vanilla bean frosting, vanilla bean marshmallows, vanilla bean pastry cream, vanilla bean ice cream…you will never want to go back to vanilla extract…unless you use the beans to make it!!!

img_0009_#1One pound of Premium Vanilla Beans.

img_0003_#2Half pound of Premium grade vanilla beans, you get 90-95 beans, what a deal.  You could even be generous and share with your friends.  It’s ok to feel like you have to hoard your vanilla beans, but at less than $0.50/each, you can afford to share and use them on a regular basis.  And don’t worry, even I have moments of hoarding and I own a vanilla bean business.

Not sure if you like vanilla beans?  We also sell individual vanilla beans in each grade, so you can mix and match and decide which beans are for you. Compare our beans with those you find in the grocery stores and you will be very pleased.  Typical grocery store vanilla beans are dry and brittle and are between $5-10 each!!!  YIKES!!!  Give our beans a try, you won’t regret it!!!  But be warned, once you start using vanilla beans, you will be addicted…fortunately, we have affordable beans that are fresh.  And after all, if you are going to have an addiction, vanilla beans are a good addiction!!!

Vanilla Bean Storage

The most common question that I get asked is “What is the best way to store the vanilla beans?”  Here are a few suggestions and examples.

The best way to store vanilla beans forever without any fear of spoilage or hardening is to find a good-size container with a tight-fitting lid.  A very large mason jar, or a tall, narrow tupperware container will work well, or even a zippered, freezer-gauge plastic bag.  Put the vanilla beans inside, then fill the container until it just covers the beans with vodka or rum (depending on whether you want your beans plain or sweet). Choose a gluten-free alcohol if you do any gluten-free baking.  Not only does this method allow you to store the vanilla beans indefinitely, you will also produce the most AMAZING vanilla extract at the same time! Simply top off with additional alcohol if the liquid level drops. Furthermore, it helps prevent vanilla bean “reactions”–as an international and cured product, they can react to the different climates they get exposed to in different ways. Mold is the big one in humid places (warm or cold).

I also recommend the hot method for making extract. It’s just one more step and not hard. You’ll pour all the alcohol into a deep saucepot and put your vanilla beans in the empty container. Bring the alcohol to just a boil, then immediately take it off the heat and carefully funnel it back into the bottle. Your extract will steep faster, darker, and stronger this way. Save any extra to top it off once it has cooled; the level will drop a bit the next day.

Step 1: Gather your supplies…liquor, beans, jar, saucepan, and funnel.  I used 13 premium grade vanilla beans in a 12 ounce jar for reference.

Step 2:  Heat the Liquor until it just starts to boil.

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Step 3:  While liquor is warming, place the vanilla beans into the jar.

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Step 4:  Pour liquor into jar containing the vanilla beans.  Use a funnel if needed to prevent making a mess.

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Step 5:  Allow the beans and alcohol to sit for 10-12 weeks in a cool dark place.  Shake the jar every few days to mix the beans and liquor.

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The longer the beans are in the liquor, the darker it will get.  This next picture was taken after the liquor had cooled down on day 1.

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The next few pictures are from the next 2-3 weeks time.  As you can see, it is beginning to get darker, but not to good extract level yet.

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You can also stuff your jar full of vanilla beans and add enough liquor to cover the beans.  This will make extract faster and you can still pull the beans out and use them as you need them.

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I also recommend using a container that allows you to pour the extract off easily.  This is the container that I normally use, due to the type of lid and pouring spout that it has.

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Other than that, the only other decision to make is whether to split the beans or not. Split beans will result in a somewhat speckly extract, which can of course be strained through cheesecloth or a coffee filter later, while whole beans will result in a less speckly extract. I don’t notice a difference in flavor, but my extracts always end up having a lot of pods in them because I add my empty, scraped pods to the extract after I make something with the caviar.

To use a preserved bean, simply remove it from the alcohol, slit as usual, and scrape gently or you can just run your pinched fingers down the sides of the beans and the caviar will just squirt out.  The empty beans can be returned to the mixture for additional steeping, or added to a fresh bottle of alcohol for making even more incredible extract.

My recommendation for the Indonesian beans is to use some kind of rum. It complements the flavor of the Java vanilla the best. My favorite so far has been a mixture of spiced and gold rum (two partly-empty bottles combined). The higher the proof, the better, so you don’t get too much sugar, which will inhibit steeping and result in a watery-looking, light-flavored extract. Or, you can add everclear to the rum, but there are plenty of high-proof rums these days.  80 proof and above is ideal, the higher, the better.

Vodka works great, too, if you want to showcase the vanilla flavor only rather than complement it, but be sure not to do what I did the first time and get the cheapest vodka on the shelf–the extract smelled hideous! Haha! It was in a plastic bottle. Anything in a glass bottle should be fine, and it doesn’t need to be expensive by any means.

For strong extract ready in 10-12 weeks, you’ll want a minimum of 4 luxury, 5 ultra-premium, or 6 gourmet vanilla beans per 8 oz. of alcohol. With vanilla extract, it’s really just “the longer, the better” and the more beans, the better.

Not only does this method allow you to store the vanilla beans indefinitely, you will also produce the most amazing vanilla extract at the same time! Simply top off with additional alcohol if the liquid level drops. Furthermore, it helps prevent vanilla bean “reactions”–as an international and cured product, they can react to the different climates they get exposed to in different ways.

The second best method I recommend is storing in an airtight container.  Mold is the big one in humid places (warm or cold). Alternatively, to protect from spoilage, you can spread the vanilla beans out on a sheet tray, uncovered, for a few hours to overnight (no more than about eight hours!) to reduce the moisture content and then store them in an airtight container. The vanilla beans should still be glossy and flexible, so don’t let them dry out!  Stored in an airtight container with a lid that seals very well, vanilla beans will keep for 12-24 months in the right conditions (cool, but NOT cold, and dry).

And don’t forget, you can save all your empty pods for making vanilla extract! Nothing has to go to waste with these beans!

Good Luck and Enjoy Your Beans and Extract!!!