Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Z has gotten in the habit of dropping large wads of cash at our local farm store--pounds of free-range bacon and sausage, all-natural sodas, mints in fancy cardboard tubes, and baggies of herbs off the bulk herb shelf. I don't know why this bothers me--he claims that since we won't let him buy what he wants (an iPod Touch), why shouldn't he spend his money on food. He's a much better saver than E, who spends his money on Lego sets or Big Nate books the minute he gets a chance. M can be a saver when he has something in mind to save up for (his own iPod Touch, or a new distortion peddle), or he can spend flagrantly on junk food and school dances, living from paycheck to paycheck (or allowance disbursement to allowance disbursement). Z, on the other hand, holds on tight to his cash. Or at least he did until recently. And he has a great big wad of it to spend, so I cringe when he drops $60 bucks on food. 

But that's not what this post is about. Or it's only about that tangentially. Back around Christmastime, Z bought several vanilla beans and a bunch of big knuckles of ginger root, and has been begging to make vanilla extract and crystallized ginger ever since. I appreciate his determination (although it's a bit disconcerting to come home each night to your eight-year-old asking if you'd picked up any vodka on the way home), and his interest in potion-making, but December and January were too busy for side projects.

Finally, though, I picked up some vodka last week, and more ginger to replace the roots that had grown shriveled and moldy in our fridge, and Z and I set to work Sunday. We followed Catherine Newman's vanilla extra recipe, and ended up with 20 ounces of extract-in-the making. Enough, surely, to last until Z goes to college. We also have a few leftover vanilla beans, so suggestions on what to do with those would be most welcome.

For the crystallized ginger, I just used a random recipe off the internet, which is:

Simmer1 lb peeled and sliced ginger root with 5 c. water until soft (this took 40-50 min.)
Strain (reserving liquid); weigh ginger; return to pot w/ an equal weight of sugar and 1/4 cup cooking liquid.
Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is almost dry and recrystallized.
Spread on a baking sheet to cool.

We made a half-recipe and it made about two cups of crystallized ginger (which didn't last long in our house). It's the chewiest, spiciest, most delicious crystallized ginger I've ever had, and I highly recommend it (it's not a lot of work to make, just a lot of time).

Both recipes will be in the running for kid-made Christmas gifts next year. In the meantime, Z and I are going to have to think of some other potions to cook up.


  1. You can make vanilla sugar (put the bean in a jar of sugar. It's good for anything sweet & mildly flavored. On cookies, in milk w/ nutmeg, in yogurt if you don't like it plain.

  2. That crystalized ginger looks amazing!

    Vanilla salt idk, it just sounds interesting

    Or scrape it & use it lieu of extract to make pudding. yum


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