Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is very easy to make but does require a bit of time. Making vanilla extract uses the same technique as making any other extract.

vanilla extract 1 Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract was the first extract I ever made. It opened the door to making all kinds of  food and medicinal extracts.

1 part organic whole vanilla beans, chopped or split
4-5 parts organic vodka

There are a number of ways to prepare the vanilla beans. One is to cut the beans into small pieces before adding them to the vodka. This method gives a very strong vanilla flavor to the extract very quickly. The vanilla bean pieces can be minced up and used in desserts. Another way is to cut the bean in half and carefully split the vanilla beans down the middle. Splitting the vanilla bean lengthwise takes longer to make an extract but it’s easier to remove the vanilla seeds later.

To make vanilla extract, use a small pint-sized glass canning jar with a plastic lid. Put the vanilla beans into the alcohol. Ensure the vanilla beans are completely immersed in the alcohol. Label the jar as vanilla bean extract. Put the percentage of alcohol, today’s date and the decanting date. The vanilla extract will be ready for use in six weeks but the extract can be used before that day. DO NOT throw out the vanilla beans after making the extract. Use the whole vanilla beans in desserts.

The whole vanilla bean pieces can be removed from the extract and added to ice cream or desserts after being finely minced. Some people prefer using only the seeds. Splitting the beans down the middle makes it easier to remove half of a bean from the extract and scrape off the seeds. The vanilla seeds can be scraped from the whole, half bean using a sharp knife. If you have never used vanilla bean seeds for ice cream or desserts you are in for a treat.

If you run out of vanilla extract just add more vodka to the remaining vanilla pieces. The second extract will be less potent but it can save a trip to the store.

vanilla extract 2 Homemade Vanilla Extract

There is a second product that comes from making homemade vanilla extract. Splitting the vanilla bean lengthwise allows for easy scrapping of the vanilla seeds. Vanilla seeds are an amazing addition to ice cream and desserts.

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Here’s some vanilla seeds in Coconut Pudding. Vanilla seeds are also delicious in ice cream.

If you would like more recipes on making medicinal extracts please see Healthy Household: Staying Clean Safely.

Healthy Household: Frankincense Liniment

“Embroctions or liniments are used in massage, with the herbs in a oil or alcohol base or a mixture of the two. Absorbed quickly through the skin, they can readily relieve muscle tension, pain, and inflammation, and speed the healing of injuries.”
Kitchen Medicine: Household Remedies for Common Ailments and Domestic Emergencies by Julie Bruton-Seal

frankincense 1 Healthy Household: Frankincense Liniment

Frankincense Liniment can also be rubbed over a swollen joint or muscle. To protect clothing, put a layer of shea butter or Frankincense Salve over the sticky resin.

I have been very frustrated trying to make Frankincense Liniment over the last few months. For my first attempt in making liniment, I tried using 40% alcohol (80 proof). Unfortunately, the alcohol wasn’t strong enough to crack the resin. The resulting liniment was of poor quality and didn’t work very well. I was very disappointed but not surprised.

Most herbalists recommend using 95% alcohol (190 proof) to crack any of the tree resins. Unfortunately, in British Columbia the Ministry of Morality has banned the sale 95% alcohol. I guess the BC government sees the citizens of BC as just too reckless to have such a powerful product available for sale.

My alcohol problem was solved by a busman’s holiday to Alberta. I don’t know if the Alberta government is wise or reckless but in Alberta, 95% alcohol is available for sale. So I stocked up with three bottles of Everclear which is enough 95% alcohol to produce liniment for years of household use.

I wanted to warn anyone that wants to make Frankincense Liniment or any remedy using tree resins about this problem. Unfortunately, you will need to make a trip to Alberta or the US to get an alcohol strong enough to crack resins. I’m angry that we must incur the inconvenience and cost of driving to Alberta or the US to get Everclear for making liniment but until the BC government lifts the ban on the sale of 95% alcohol we have no other choice.

frankincense liniment 2 Healthy Household: Frankincense Liniment

On the left is unprocessed frankincense resin tears. On the right is the resin tears after six weeks in 95% alcohol. Any remaining resin can be processed into liniment by adding more alcohol and decanting the liniment after six weeks.

“Frankincense is especially suitable for conditions where the joints and muscles are very stiff, swollen, and painful. It is also often used topically more than myrrh.”
Chinese Herbal Medicines Comparisons and Characteristics by Yang Yifan

Frankincense Liniment or Tincture
1 part wildcrafted Frankincense resin
3-4 parts 95% alcohol (190 proof) Everclear

One more point about liniments. Many liniments are made with methanol which is not safe for internal use. As I have stated before, I do not put anything on my skin that I would not consider safe to ingest. So, this liniment is made with ethanol. It can be used internally. I have no personal experience using frankincense internally but thanks to the internet there is information available about the safe, internal use of frankincense for those people interested in that use.

Have caution when working with resins. Resins are messy and sticky. Use a glass container that will only be used for that type of resin or use a container that can be thrown away after use. It will be impossible to clean the glass container after cracking the resin. The cracked resin will stick to everything it touches and once the resin dries it will produce a very hard, varnish-like coating.

Once you have acquired some 95% alcohol, this liniment is very easy to make and is just like any other tincture. Put the frankincense resin in a glass container that will only be used for this resin or can be thrown out after use. Add the 95% alcohol to the frankincense and seal the jar with a lid. Label the jar as frankincense resin. Put the percentage of alcohol, today’s date, and the decanting date. Decanting day will be in six weeks. The jar will need to be stirred every day for at least the first week. Use a stirring stick that can be thrown out after use or carefully swirl the resin tears in the alcohol.

On decanting day, carefully pour off the liquid into a glass bottle. Use a glass bottle that can be discarded or reused for more liniment because the resin cannot be cleaned out of the bottle. (Reusing a Green Pastures’ glass bottle works well.) Likely, you will still have resin tears at the bottom of the glass container. Add more 95% alcohol and repeat the process.

Frankincense Liniment can be used in a number of ways. It can be dabbed on wounds as a disinfectant with a cotton swab. The resinous quality of frankincense makes the wound waterproof and acts like a medical adhesive and normally doesn’t need dressing. If a dressing is required, add a layer of shea butter* or Frankincense Salve after the alcohol has dissipated to avoid the wound sticking to the dressing.

The liniment can also be rubbed over a swollen joint or painful muscle. It is best applied after a hot bath or a hot compress. A cotton ball or folded piece of tissue paper works well for application to a larger skin area.** To protect clothing, put a layer of shea butter or Frankincense Salve over the sticky resin after the alcohol has dissipated. The waterproof quality of the resin will allow bathing between treatments. The pain relieve from this liniment can be felt almost immediately. Ice the area as normal.

For more information about frankincense please see:
Homemade Christmas: Frankincense Oil and Frankincense Salve

*I would highly recommend shea butter. I use shea butter in a number of homemade personal care products. Shea butter is especially good as a moisturizer for mature skin.
**Cotton balls or tissue paper covered in frankincense resin makes an excellent, sweet smelling fire starter.

Seasonal Foods: Microgreens and Indoor Gardening

microgreen 1a Seasonal Foods: Microgreens and Indoor Gardening

One or two more days until harvest time! Under the best conditions the outside garden will start producing a harvest in 60 days. With an indoor garden, the first harvest happens in 10-14 days.

This winter as the price of organic vegetables started to climb and the contents in my root cellar started to dwindle, I started sprouting. I had a series of mason jars lining my kitchen window but the production just wasn’t enough. I bought a new sprout stacking tray but it still didn’t meet my needs. I started bulk production of mung beans but there still wasn’t enough! I realized with a family of four including two teenagers, I would have to get serious about my production.

I started looking around the internet for household or commercial growing units. I found many great units but the cost was around $500 for a household system to $4000 for a small commercial system. The cheaper units were dry. The more expensive units were automatic, wet systems with complicated plumbing, draining, misting, and timers with complex, computerized, electrical systems. To me, it looked like a lot of systems to go wrong. Being frugal, I knew we would be building our own simple, dry growing unit, likely out of scarp materials and spare parts.

It took Shaen about four hours to build the dry growing unit to accommodate a standard 10″x21″ seedling tray out of scrap materials. The growing unit was built around the a 4′ long fluorescent light and can accommodate a total of 20 seedling trays. There are five shelves with three shelves with lights. Each shelf with lights has four double fluorescent lights with a total of eight bulbs per shelf. The growing unit is on wheels and can be moved around easily. The unit is covered with a piece of reused, lumber wrap but an old cotton sheet would work well too. Being a dry system, it is important to use seedling trays that DO NOT have holes in the bottom. The unit is still not perfect but like with most of our projects, it’s good enough!

microgreens 1 Seasonal Foods: Microgreens and Indoor Gardening

Growing microgreens will require some equipment and materials. Gather together the seedling trays, soil sieve, peat moss, compost, garden soil and additives. If you don’t have the time to mix your own soil, an easier solution is buying seedling soil or potting soil.

microgreens 2 Seasonal Foods: Microgreens and Indoor Gardening

The peat moss, compost and garden soil is put through the sieve to remove any large pieces. The no-hole seedling trays are half filled. Now is the time to add dry organic fertilizers, if desired.

microgreens 3 Seasonal Foods: Microgreens and Indoor Gardening

Filling a number of seedling trays with the soil mixture will save time.

The idea with the growing unit is that sprouting happens in the dark shelves close to the floor. In our situation, the house is heated with in-floor heating so sprouting works best closer to the floor. As the sprouts grow they are moved up to the light shelves. Later, we wondered if we had got it backwards. Even though fluorescent lights do not produce much heat, the ballasts do produce heat. Under normal circumstances it would be better to have the sprouting shelves above the light shelves to make use of the waste heat from the ballasts. If we build this growing unit again, we would put the dark shelves above the ballasts.

This growing unit is designed to be dry. It is very important to use seedling trays that do not have holes in the bottom. Handle the trays gently to avoid damage because leaky trays cannot be used. Fill half of each tray with sifted compost, peat moss and garden soil. During my research, many sources recommended using 50% compost, 25% peat moss and 25% garden soil. Personally, I will be experimenting with soil mixtures and natural additives but I started with this ratio. To avoid extra work, load 4-12 trays with sifted soil at a time. Dampen the soil in each tray and cover the tray with another seedling tray to keep the soil from drying out.

microgreens 4 Seasonal Foods: Microgreens and Indoor Gardening

This is our mobile growing unit. There are three light shelves and two dark shelves. If we build this growing unit again we would put the dark shelves above the light ballasts.

microgreens 5 Seasonal Foods: Microgreens and Indoor Gardening

On the right is a tray with seedling that are rooting. The second tray on top is to keep the seedlings in the dark. When the seedlings have rooted the plastic greenhouse top goes on.

The seeds are soaked and sprouted in mason jars for anywhere from 1-3 days depending on the type of seed. (If you have never sprouted in mason jars please see Pantry Foods: Sprouts.) With fresh water, rinse and drain the seeds two or three times a day. I do not plant the seeds until I see some evidence of sprouting. I usually fill one tray per day with soaked seeds. For each tray, soak the following amount of dried seeds:
1/2c organic unhulled sunflower seeds, unhulled buckwheat seeds or whole garden peas
1/4c microgreen mix (whole unhulled seeds: fenugreek, dill, coriander, brown mustard, yellow mustard, radish, broccoli, cress, chicory, kale, rapine, lettuce, dandelion, amaranth, lentils, peas, etc.)

If you are new to microgreens, start with sunflower, peas and buckwheat seeds which are fast and easy to grow. The peas and buckwheat are better cooked like spinach while the sunflower sprouts are better raw. There are commercial microgreen mixtures which I have never used. I mixed up my own blend with the seeds I have available. For the bulk of sprouting I use beans, legumes and seeds from my dried stores. For variety, I add culinary seeds and old garden seeds to the mix. In general, if your microgreen mix has more small seeds use less volume, and if it has more large seeds use more volume.

When the seeds in the mason jar show signs of sprouting it is time to plant. Spread the seeds evenly over the soil in the tray. Try not to have the seeds touch each other. There is no need to cover the seeds with soil. Using the flat of your hand, gently press the seeds into the soil, if desired. Water the seeds and cover the seeds with another seedling tray. Some growers recommend adding a small amount of dried powdered kelp to the first watering. Some growers recommend a mixture of blood meal, bone meal, lime and kelp to be mixed into the soil before planting. I’m experimenting with both methods to see which additives work best in a given situation.

In 1-3 days, the seedlings will be rooted and pushing up on the top seedling tray. This is the time to move the young seedlings into the light and to cover the tray with a plastic greenhouse cover. The plastic greenhouse cover does a good job of keeping the sprouts moist. If you do need to water, just moisten the soil. Don’t over water the plants. Be careful to not damage the plastic greenhouse covers. Damaged covers do not protect the sprouts from moisture loss and will require more care and watering.

Within a 6-10 days the microgreens will be ready to cut.  A sharp knife or scissors work well to cut the microgreens close the level of the soil. It’s best to cut just before eating the sprouts. First, cut around the edge of the tray and any really large sprouts. The remaining sprouts will close the gaps after just one day of growing. For the next cut, cut through the middle of the tray, followed by cutting in quarters then eighths. After all the greens are cut the soil and roots can be given to chickens or composted.

Once the growing unit is set up, it takes less than 10 minute each day to manage the system and provide your family with delicious fresh sprouts and microgreens! Also, producing bedding plants for your regular garden will be a breeze!

If you are looking for suppliers of seeds I have used The Horse Barn for industrial (seed-oil) sunflower seeds, Nature’s Fare for organic mung beans and Fieldstone Granary for organic beans, legumes and grains. In the past, I have used Mountain Rose Herbs for any type of organic sprouting seed and whole, organic culinary seeds. Recently, I have found a new source for organic sprouting seeds in Nelson, BC called Organic Matters. They have a excellent selection of organic sprouting seeds, beans, legumes and grains.

microgreens 6 Seasonal Foods: Microgreens and Indoor Gardening

Once the seedlings grow enough to push up on the small greenhouse cover, replace the cover with a larger one. If you get the watering right and don’t open the greenhouse cover very often, you will not have to water at all before harvesting.

Seasonal Foods: Mung Bean Sprouting

mung bean 1 Seasonal Foods: Mung Bean Sprouting

Mung beans liven up a boring meal of winter cabbage. Grated beet root gives a wonderful rich color to chicken and garlic stir-fry. This meal is great with a tablespoon of Master Tonic!

Sprouts are a wonderful winter food. When greens at the grocery store are starting to look less than appealing while still costing a small fortune, sprouting can be a great way to get your greens at a reasonable price. Sprouts may not be a superfood like organ meats but sprouts are a very nutritious plant-based food.

Sprouts are full of chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. Mung bean sprouts can be eaten raw or cooked. They are nice in salads and will add some crunch to stir-fried winter vegetables.

If you live in Kamloops, BC and are looking for an inexpensive source of organic mung beans, Nature’s Fare can order in 25 pound bags for about $60.00 or you can buy a pound for about $5.00. Deanna Hurstfield from the Kamloops Organic Buying Club turned me on to a wholesaler out in Nelson, BC called Organic Matters. I was seriously impressed with their choice of products and useful re-useable containers.

Simple Mung Bean Sprouts
2T dried organic mung beans
filtered water
Sprouting is very easy. Add 2T mung beans to a 1L mason jar. The beans should be rinsed 2-3 times a day with filtered water. The trick with mung beans is to keep them in the dark to avoid the sprouts getting tough and bitter. Cover the mouth of the mason jar with a cheese cloth kept in place with a elastic band. An alternative is to use a metal or plastic sprouting lid. Place the jar on its side in a warm, dark place. After a few days the skins of the mung beans should be removed. Some people find the skins bitter. The skins will float to the top of the water during rinsing which makes removal easier. The mung beans should be ready after 4-6 days depending on the temperature. A good trick is to start a second jar in 2-3 days for a continual supply of sprouts.

When the mung bean sprouts are ready to eat it is better to remove the sprouts from the sprouting jar and transfer the them to a glass container covered with a plastic bag and kept in the fridge. In the fridge, the sprouts should be good for about one week but the sprouts will be much better eaten within a day or two.

mung bean 6 Seasonal Foods: Mung Bean Sprouting

On the right is a stacking sprouting system for small amounts of sprouts. A mason jar with sprouting lid also works very well. On the left, is the bowl pressure method for making up to half a cup of dried mung beans at a time.

Blanched and Pressed Sprouts
1/2c dried organic mung beans
filtered water
If you really get into mung bean sprouting you might like to try growing mung sprouts under a weight which is called the pressure method. This is considered the best way to grow mung bean sprouts. Traditionally, people would bury the sprouts in about one foot of damp, fine sand. After a week they would dig out the sprouts after the surface of the sand expanded and cracked. Being so deep in the sand, the sprouts would be blanched. This process is called horticulture blanching.

mung bean 2 Seasonal Foods: Mung Bean Sprouting

A colander goes on top of the bowl.

mung bean 3 Seasonal Foods: Mung Bean Sprouting

A wet cloth is placed into the colander and the 1-2 day old sprouts are placed on top.

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The mung bean sprouts are covered with the damp cloth and rinsed 2-3 times each day.

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A bowl with enough water to weight a total of 3-5 pounds is carefully placed on top of the sprouts.

Soak the mung beans for 12 hours in a mason jar. Let them sprout for another 1-2 days in the mason jar before transferring to the bowl or tray method.

The two spouting methods that can be used at home during the winter months is the bowl or tray method. The bowl method makes less sprouts but is easier for a beginner. The method uses standard kitchen equipment which avoids extra costs. Look around your kitchen and see what equipment will work in your situation. The first time I made pressed sprouts, I used a large stainless steel bowl that a colander could fit inside. I wet down an old piece of reused, cotton cloth leaving enough cloth to cover the sprouts. I put the 1-2 day old sprouts onto the damp cloth and covered them. Then I filled a second stainless steel bowl with enough water to weight a total of 3-5 pounds. The sprouts and cloth should be rinsed with cold water two or three times a day. The blanched, pressed sprouts will be ready in 3-5 days. Launder the cotton cloth between loads to avoid bacterial build up.

For larger quantities of sprouts the seedling tray method works better. (I will share more about my experiments with seedling trays, microgreens and indoor lights in a later post.) The seedling tray is covered with a damp piece of cotton cloth with the 1-2 day old sprouts on top. The sprouts are covered with another piece of damp cloth and covered with a second tray. A dispersed weight of 3-5 pounds is put top of the second tray to weigh down the sprouts. (I found that a tray half filled with soil works well.) This will give a plump, blanched mung beans with a mild flavor. Launder the cotton cloth between loads to avoid bacterial build up.

mung beans 7 Seasonal Foods: Mung Bean Sprouting

I have become a mung bean convert! Mmmmmm!

Seasonal Foods: White Bean Salad

white bean salad Seasonal Foods: White Bean Salad

White Bean Salad makes a nice winter meal and is good topped with homegrown sprouts.

This recipe is safe for someone on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

Even though some types of beans are allowed on the SCD, I have avoided eating beans for many years. Recently, I have tried to reintroduce a small amount of beans into my diet. I have found that careful soaking and numerous washing of the beans has helped make eating beans possible. If you are on the SCD and find beans difficult to digest you might find these methods useful.

Soaked, Cooked and Rinsed White Beans
2c dried organic white beans or cannelloni beans
6c-8c filtered water for soaking
Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover them with about 2-3 inches of water above the beans. Pour off the soaking water and rinse the beans very well. A large colander or sieve works well for rinsing. Pour the soaked beans into a large sauce pan and cover with fresh water. Have at least an inch of water above the soaked beans. Bring the soaked beans to a boil and simmer for two hours. After cooking, wash the cooked beans again in fresh, cold water until the cooked beans run clean.

White Bean Salad Dressing
2-3 organic garlic cloves, finely grated
1-2T local raw honey
1tsp sea salt
1tsp dried organic dill weed
1T Homemade Whole Seed Mustard or organic Dijon mustard
1c organic cider vinegar
1c organic extra virgin olive oil
Finely grate the garlic cloves and put into a mason jar. Add the honey, sea salt, dill weed, mustard, cider vinegar and olive oil. Shake well and set aside for later use.

White Bean Salad
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1-2c White Bean Salad Dressing
4c frozen organic green beans, chopped
5-6c cooked white beans, rinsed and drained
Finely slice the onion into thin rings. In a large bowl, add the onions to 1c of White Bean Dressing and stir well. Let the onions soak in the dressing for about an hour to soften them. During this time, lightly cook the green beans in a small amount of water for 5-10 minutes. Cook the green beans less for a crunchier salad. Drain the green beans and add them to onions and dressing and stir well. Add the drained white beans and stir well. Taste the salad and add extra dressing, if needed. Chill the bean salad before serving. Any remaining dressing can be used with any salad.