About six months ago I saw a recipe for homemade vanilla extract on Pinterest and I thought I HAD to make this for Christmas this year! Not only do I love baking, but I love giving gifts that are useful and I have a lot of friends and family members that enjoy baking almost as much as I do. Shortly after I found the recipe, I bought Premium Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans on amazon.com (1/4 pound, or approximately 27 beans), bought a huge bottle (I believe it was a half-gallon) of the cheapest 80-proof vodka I could find, and started following the recipe.
I have no photos of the initial stages, but I used about 20 vanilla beans for the entire half gallon of vodka. I cut the beans in half, then followed the recipe to slice the bean down the middle leaving the end intact. I used three mason jars and put an equal amount of vanilla beans in each jar, covered with vodka, gave them a good shake then put them in our pantry (so they are out of the sunlight) and then waited...
I gave them a good shake again after a couple weeks and then waited some more.
I shook them up again after another couple weeks and then waited some more.
I continued to shake the jars every couple weeks for about five or six months, or until the vodka has been infused with the vanilla and is a nice dark brown and looks something like this:
|Vanilla Bean & Vodka mixture after sitting for about five months|
With my vanilla finally done steeping (yay!) I found 2 oz and 4 oz amber colored boston round bottles on specialtybottle.com and decided those would be perfect for my gifts! They have many options for sizes and colors, but I thought amber would work great and help protect the extract from sun penetration if it's left on the counter. I removed the vanilla beans from the extract before pouring the extract into the smaller bottles, but I didn't strain the mixture so there are some of the small seeds in each bottle.
|Everything is cuter with a baker's twine bow!|
I can't say how many bottles my half gallon of vodka made since I started using it straight out of the mason jar for some of my baking for a Bridal Shower, but I can say that this made a TON of vanilla and is definitely cost effective if you bake a lot and want to make it for yourself.
For gifts to some of my closer friends and family, I'm combining a bottle of my homemade vanilla extract with a bag of store-bought cookie mix and placing in a cute bag. I considered making my own cookie mix in a Mason jar, but I think the store-bought mix in a bag will last longer and be great for a few months AFTER Christmas when everyone is done consuming the massive amounts of cookies they made themselves.
|Vanilla extract and cookie mix gift|
|Great coworker gift or neighbor gift|
If you like my labels and bottles, I'm selling them in my Etsy shop (DigitalCake) so you can save time by not having to design and adhere the labels to the bottles yourself! Custom orders are welcome (for quantity and to change the design and paper color).