I remember when I was in elementary school, one of my teacher’s told my mother that I was a “clock-watcher”. He wasn’t wrong and I admit that to this day, I still mark time on occasion.
Well, it is in that vein that I will advise you that just 10 weeks from today….is Christmas! There are just two weeks until Halloween and in 42 days, many of us will be sitting down to a turkey dinner. Can you stand it? Just recently, I was in a store with a full-on Christmas display which seemed completely out of place, especially as our New England weather has been so warm this October.
During the holidays, I enjoy preparing homemade gifts for my friends who host parties or other friends and family. I have made so many different things over the years. Oversized Chocolate-Toffee cookies stacked by the half-dozen and wrapped in cellophane always makes a nice presentation. I’ve also made granola and packaged it in glass canisters, prepared Ina Garten’s rosemary cashew nuts, fudge that I’ve wrapped up in candy boxes purchased at the craft store and a homemade body scrub scented with grapefruit essence that I packaged in little mason jars.
A couple of years ago, our liquor cabinet had a few half-used bottles of vodka left over from summer shenanigans. Don’t ask. To declutter, I decided to prepare homemade vanilla extract which as you may know is made from vanilla beans and, you guessed it, alcohol (most often vodka)! I had originally read about how to make vanilla extract on my friend, Ellen McHale’s blog, Nelley Kelley Designs. Ellen is an artist, but she is also accomplished in the kitchen and was a huge supporter of mine when my blog was just an idea. Check out her site!
I gave most of the vanilla away except for two bottles I kept for myself. It is truly the best vanilla and I love opening the bottle and enjoying its aroma when I am baking. My supply is now getting low so I decided to prepare another batch and wanted to share the process with you so you can make some of your own! Since it take approximately two months from the time of bottling for vanilla extract to be “ready to use”, I thought this was the week to blog about it. You could have your own bottles curing by the end of the weekend. Anyone who enjoys baking or is a weekend pancake warrior will love this homemade gift so check a few people off your list!
To make the extract, you will need Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans. You can purchase them at the local grocery store, but they are more economically purchased in bulk. You will also need premium vodka, a funnel and a measuring cup. Lastly, you will want glass flasks or bottles that are at least 8.5 ounces. I purchased mine at The Container Store. Note that you can always make the extract in a big vessel and then pour it into smaller bottles to give as gifts once it is fully mature. Here is a source for smaller bottles…
For each bottle you wish to prepare, you will need 3 vanilla beans and 8 ounces of vodka. Some recipes add a splash of rum too, but if you use high quality vanilla beans I don’t think you need to add the extra alcohol.
To begin, you want to run your bottles through the dishwasher to sanitize them. The next step is to prepare the vanilla beans. For each bean, place it on a flat surface and rub the length of it with the back of a knife to evenly distribute its seeds. This also makes it easier to cut…
Next, you want to run the tip of the knife down the length of the vanilla bean. You can split it completely in half, or leave it attached at one end, just as long as the beautiful interior and its flavorful seeds are exposed…
Place the 3 whole beans, either split or in halves into your bottle. Place your funnel inside the mouth of the bottle and pour in 8 ounces of the vodka…
Store the bottles in a cool, dark place for roughly 2 months until the vanilla extract has developed its full flavor. You should give the bottle a little shake every week to mix up any seeds that have fallen to the bottom.
And then, you are ready to use the vanilla extract in your own cooking or give the bottles away to your friends and family!
Here are a few thoughts on packaging up your extract for gift giving. My friend, Ellen shows you how to create a wax seal for your bottles here. As for me, I like cellophane bags and wide, luxurious satin ribbon. I am a big fan of the ribbon from Paper Source. It is available in lots of gorgeous colors and a variety of widths, my favorite being the 1 1/2 inch because it makes a nice statement! I buy tags whenever and wherever I see them, Paper Source, Target, the craft stores, you name it. Here is another source for cute labels if you want to go that route.
Below is a picture of three stages of vanilla extract. On the left is a freshly made bottle. On the right is a bottle that has fully matured vanilla. In the middle is a bottle that I have added vodka to when I had 1/3 of the bottle left. Some recipes suggest this is a method for extending the life of the vanilla beans, but I won’t do this again as it dilutes the vanilla that has taken 2 months to mature! Instead, I will take the beans from a finished bottle of vanilla and transfer them to my next, new bottle of vanilla to boost the work of the newer vanilla beans…
This is a picture of some quick ways to make your bottles pretty for gifts. If you are giving the extract before it is fully ready for use, you can add the “use after” date on your tag or a label…
What are your favorite hostess gifts or little presents to give either from the kitchen or from the store? I am always looking for new ideas so please let me know in the comments! Enjoy!
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Homemade vanilla extract is an easy do-it-yourself that will bring amazing flavor to your baked goods. Make some for yourself and for your friends and family. It makes a wonderful gift for anyone who loves to bake!
- 3 Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans
- 8 ounces premium vodka
- 1 8.5 ounce glass flask or bottle, sanitized in the dish washer
- Place vanilla beans on a cutting board and run the back of a knife along the bean lengthwise. This will even out the distribution of the seeds and make the bean easier to slice in half.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and split in half. Alternatively, you can leave one end of the bean in tact which will make it easier to remove from the bottle in the future. Place the vanilla beans in the bottle.
- Place a small funnel in the mouth of the bottle and add the vodka.
- Seal the bottle and store in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 2 months. The flavor will continue to develop up to 6 months. Give the bottle a shake once a week to redistribute any seeds that have sunk to the bottom. Enjoy!
Love your post Val and thanks for the link love. Perfect timing to get myself back in the kitchen to bottle up some homemade holiday gifts!
Thanks always for the inspiration, El!
The countdown frightens me! I am in awe of your talent and creativity. Thank you for the ideas.
You’re welcome, Linda! It frightens me too by the way!