My friend Mary from White Peach Photography asked me if I wanted to be a guest blogger this holiday season. She gave me free reign to blog about the topic of my choice. I chose to share with you a fun craft that makes the perfect gift this holiday season.
If you’re like me, there comes a time close to Christmas when you just can’t find that perfect gift for the baker in the family or the friend who has everything. Luckily, I found an article last year on Pinterest describing how to make home-made vanilla extract, which has since become a staple gift that I just love to give; who doesn’t use vanilla extract in their kitchen? Not only does it save the gift receiver lots of money on those little bottles at the grocery store, but it lasts them much longer and they can keep making more with the basic ingredients. Making your own vanilla extract also guarantees that the manufacturer isn’t adding artificial colors and sweeteners. It makes for a great gift because it’s like wine; it matures with age.
There are only four things you need to make home-made vanilla extract: An air-tight jar, vodka, vanilla beans and two months in darkness. Sounds a little sad, but the time in the dark is where the magic really happens. I know it’s only a few days until Christmas, but you can still make the vanilla and instruct your gift recipient to store in a dark cupboard until the ready-date. If you want to take it one step further, make a reminder for yourself to send the gift receiver a card telling them that their vanilla is ready to use!
I picked up these cute little two-cup jars at Ikea for just $2.99 each.Vodka can be found at any local liquor store; it’s been suggested to use 80 proof. You can use other types of liquor, such as brandy or rum for additional flavor, but vodka has the most neutral flavor which is ideal for baking! I order the vanilla beans from Amazon.com; they come in several kinds and quantities. I like the Madagascar beans – they are considered to be the ‘classic’ bean. The best ratio to use is three beans per cup of vodka. So, each two-cup jar gets six beans (some quick math, right?).
Here’s how you make it:
Start by washing the jars and de-labeling them. Then, I’d suggest using a sharp paring knife to cute lengthwise down the center of each vanilla bean, leaving about half an inch uncut at the top.
Place the beans in the glass jar and add the desired amount of vodka. Be sure to completely cover the beans.
Close the lid and give it a good shake. This is why it’s so important to get air-tight jars – you wouldn’t want to shake it and have it leak out!
After shaking the jar you’ll see little pieces of the bean falling out. That’s normal. Give instructions to the gift receiver to shake every few days to help process the extract and to leave it in a cool, dark cupboard for at least two months.
I like to decorate the jars with a little ribbon, twine and a label. On the front of the label I printed “Vanilla Extract” and on the back I sometimes add, “Ready By: DATE” if I know that it still needs time to process. Over time, the vodka will turn into a deep brown color. As the extract is used, more vodka and additional beans can be added to the same jar to create more vanilla extract.
If you have several bakers in your life that you think would like this gift, you can make a large amount ahead of time and let it process in your cupboard. Then, when it’s done you can divide it into separate, tiny bottles to spread more extract around!
Many thanks to Mary for asking me to join in the fun with the holiday postings! I hope that this holiday season brings you joy and many wonderful memories with dear friends and family.