Times are hard. Who would ever think violence in Mexico could affect the quality of PTA cupcakes?
Last year's mission trip to build houses in Reynosa got cancelled because of the drug war violence. This year's trip still is up in the air. And these trips weren't just to build those houses. Nosiree bob. The trip also furnished me with a year's supply of cheap but great vanilla. And now, dearhearts, I have officially run out of the good stuff.
Three years ago I took a cooking class here in the sticks where the average housewife does not make annual trips to Mexico nor can afford a gourmet shipment of Martha Stewart-grade vanilla. She either settles for the stuff at Walmart or she makes her own. The cooking teacher told me to go out and buy a pint of cheap vodka and throw in 3 or 4 vanilla beans. This lady had won more than a few State Fair ribbons for her pies and cakes so I figure she knew what she was talking about.
She told us the vanilla would be ready in three months. I wrote the date on the bottle and for a few months I would check it from time to time, unscrewing the bottle then sniff and swirl and sniff. It just smelled like vodka. Which, if you have noticed, doesn't have much of a smell.
I went back to using the Mexican stuff since I had it. But tonight the bottle was enpty and things got desperate. And there was a cake to ice. I had no other option. I prayed and opened the vodka vanilla. To my happy surprise, three years later it is every bit as good as what I was buying in Mexico.
I remembered that the cooking teacher said I should give the bottle a little shake every single day. But there is a huge "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" factor in my kitchen and I never tended to the brew. So, I'm thinking it might not have taken three years to produce decent vanilla if I had been a smidge more attentive.
Get your vodka and beans. It may take you some time but I've learned it will be worth it. At least until we can get the drug wars in Mexico to die down.