Sunday, October 20, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

With Christmas just over 5 weeks away, I am seriously starting to think of gift idea's for the many people in my life (you really wanted that reminder, didn't you?). Along with the gift-giving that comes along with Christmas, there is also the many dinners and parties you'll attend. In either case, wouldn't homemade vanilla extract be a wonderful gift idea for your family, friends and colleagues? Homemade gifts are really awesome and many people really love things that comes from the heart. It's within the meaning of Christmas after all.

Thanks to Bethany Actually (whom I found on Pinterest) and a couple of other online sources, I found out that making your own vanilla extract is actually super easy! 

Here's what you'll need: 
  • Vanilla Beans
  • Vodka, any brand and can be inexpensive. I used Absolut Vodka.
  • Glass bottles with lids
  • Measuring cup
  • Funnel
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Paper Towels
  • Ribbon or twine (optional)
For the vanilla beans themselves, I bought mine through eBay from Vanilla Products USA and used Grade B Bourbon Planifolia Vanilla Beans grown in Madagascar. The service and delivery time were pretty good and I would purchase from them again. It costs about $24 (including shipping) for 30 beans.

For the glass bottles I used, I used 4 oz. Boston Round bottles purchased from Uline, which is located in Brampton, ON. You will need to purchase a case of 24 as a minimum. They were about $30 for the case.
First and foremost, be sure to wash your bottles and lids with hot soapy water and then let them air dry.

Using your sharp knife, cut your bean in half. Then, about a half inch down from the end slice the bean in half lengthwise.

Once you have all your beans cut and ready to go (I used all 30 of mine for 12 bottles), put 5 pieces (two and half full beans) of bean into your glass yours. If you have any extra pieces (I had one), just add it to a jar.

Once your jars are full of beans, you ready to pour the vodka. Add half cup of vodka to each bottle ensuring that the beans are fully covered.
Your funnel likely wont stay still on it's own so be sure to hold the funnel while your pouring in the vodka.
After adding the vodka, simply screw on the caps tightly and you're done! You can see the vodka starting to change colour almost instantly.

Important care instructions: Be sure to store these in a cool dry place. From what I read online, the vanilla will be good to use in about two months time. Just be sure the give the bottles a gentle shake a few times a week.

After the vanilla is ready you can remove the beans or leave them in, just note that the vodka will evaporate over a long period of time. In this case, simply top up the vodka to ensure the beans stay covered.

Since these are Christmas gifts, I went a step further and created these labels using MS Publisher. I followed the same label idea as Bethany Actually. Ingredients listed is love, vodka and vanilla beans. A sweet touch for your friends and family.

In my case I only labelled 6 as I will likely keep a couple bottles for myself with all the baking I do, but also because I'll be including a bottle in my Secret Santa gift at work and will create a more generic label for that (will post about this gift idea sometime in November).

Since the vanilla takes about two month's to be ready, you can also add a 'Best After Date' to your label or simply add that piece of info in your card (assuming you give them one).

I'm pretty happy with the way they turned out. The picture below shows how the colour changed in only a 24 hour period. They'll eventually be very deep amber in colour.
You can also dress up the bottles with ribbon or twine for a nice added touch.
I hope you enjoy making your vanilla as much as I did! Feel free to comment below with any questions, etc.

Good Luck!

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