Tuesday 5 June 2012

Vanilla - Vanilla Ice Cream GF SCD

Vanilla is the world's most labour intensive agricultural crop and because of this, it is the second most expensive spice next to saffron. It is the only edible fruit of the orchid family, the largest family of flowering plants on earth. The vanilla orchid, vanilla planifolia, grows wild on the edges of tropical forests and can grow over 100 feet.

The stingless Melipona Bee, native to Mexico, is the only bee able to pollinate the vanilla orchid. So when the vanilla plant was introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the 16th Century it flowered but it didn't produce pods. It wasn't until the mid 19th Century that the technique of hand pollination was discovered and successful plantations could be established elsewhere in the world. Each plant has to be pollinated by hand on the day it blooms, a painstaking process and one often performed by women and children,  hence the reason why it is so expensive. Some women are able to pollinate up to 2,500 flowers in one day! The green pods are odourless until cured and dried, a process that takes months to complete.

Vanilla was first cultivated by the Totonacs for use as a medicine and perfume but it was the Aztecs who discovered its qualities as a flavouring and used it in xocolatl, a foaming chocolate drink, also spiced with chilli and sweetened with honey, which was served to the nobility and warriors. Queen Elizabeth I adored vanilla and preferred its flavour to all other spices. 

Medicinal Uses

The Totonacs considered vanilla to be a sacred spice and made collars of the flowers to help ward off illness. They also used vanilla for the treatment of :
  • venomous bites
  • respiratory disease
  • digestive disorders
In the 19th Century vanilla was perceived to be an aromatic stimulant which was also used to treat:
  • anxiety
  • hysteria
  • rheumatism
  • fever
More recently, in the early 1990s it was discovered that the scent of vanilla helped to reduce anxiety in cancer patients during MRI scans confirming its ability to calm the nerves. Vanillin, the phenolic acid found in vanilla beans acts as an anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory agent. Modern day research may prove that vanilla could help heal certain cancers and Alzheimer's Disease. 

Known for centuries as an aphrodisiac, vanilla is now used widely in the manufacture of perfumes and candles.

Nutritional Benefits

Vanilla contains small amounts of:
  • niacin
  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin B5
  • vitamin B6
  • copper
  • calcium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • manganese
  • phosphorus
  • zinc

AND did you know that spiders hate the smell of vanilla...

Cooking with Vanilla

Vanilla is actually categorised as a tropical fruit but the pods are generally considered to be a spice. It is available for purchase in these forms:
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Vanilla Powder
  • Vanilla Paste
  • Vanilla Pods
Vanilla extract is the most popular form of vanilla used in cooking. Mexican, Tahitian, Indonesian and Bourbon vanilla are the main types. Pure vanilla extract is made by macerating and percolating vanilla beans in a solution of ethyl alcohol and water. Pure vanilla extract is legal for followers of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet since vanilla powder and paste tends to have sugars added.

A simple way to make your own vanilla extract is to soak 3 split vanilla pods covered completely in a quarter of a litre of vodka in a glass jar with a secure tightly fitting lid. Leave for about three months in a dark place (not a fridge) and top up with more vodka after use.

Vanilla Ice Cream GF SCD

Vanilla Yogurt Cream

300ml organic double cream
300ml organic whole milk
1 to 3 organic vanilla pods

Make the Yogurt Cream two days ahead following my instructions for making SCD yogurt but use organic double cream and organic whole milk instead of just milk including this following stage after the cream has boiled for three minutes.

Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the pan of hot boiled cream then add the pod as well. Leave in the pan until the cream cools. I used just one pod because I wanted to create quite a delicate vanilla flavour but use 2 or even 3 if you want to.

Take out the pods using a sterilized spoon before pouring the cream on to the yogurt starter, leaving in the yogurt maker for 24 hours then keeping it in the fridge overnight. Place the bowl from your ice cream maker into the freezer.

Vanilla Ice Cream 

600ml vanilla yogurt cream
60 -90 ml mild clear honey (I used 60ml)

Place your whisks and bowl in the fridge for half an hour before starting the yogurt. Take the vanilla yogurt cream from the fridge.

Tip into a cold bowl with the honey.

Preferably using an electric whisk, whisk the honey into the vanilla cream.

Take the bowl for your ice cream maker out of the freezer. Turn on the machine and slowly pour the cream into the ice cream maker.

Follow the instructions of your ice cream maker and churn until the ice cream is frozen when the paddle should be stuck in the ice cream.

Spoon into your cold bowl and leave in the freezer for at least four hours.

If you love ice cream, here are some of my other recipes which are suitable for the SCD :