It’s time to start thinking about the holidays! That is, if you’d like to surprise your friends, co-workers, neighbors, teachers, or loved ones with a gift of homemade vanilla extract.
Zander and I got a late start on this last year, and although we had planned to give these as holiday gifts (locally—I don’t think they’d ship well), the vanilla wasn’t quite ready in time. Then we moved from California to Oregon, which sort of threw a wrench into things, and I was too busy unpacking to even think about finding the labels or bottling the vanilla.
What’s really great about this situation (always a silver lining) is that we wound up with an extraordinary batch of scrumptious vanilla extract that had been infusing for 9 months. And now I am thinking of starting another batch. Immediately. Because it only made enough to fill 10 bottles, and we don’t want to give any of it away. That is how good this vanilla is. It makes you feel greedy.
Always my trusty helper in the kitchen, Zander helped me to make this super-simple recipe. He even went with me to the liquor store in search of organic vodka, which I will admit felt more than a little bit awkward (as I walked to the register with two huge bottles of vodka and my 4-year-old son, announcing loudly, repeatedly, and yes, somewhat defensively that this was for our homemade vanilla).
Anyway, here is how we made it:
HOMEMADE VANILLA EXTRACT
2 (750 ml) bottles certified organic vodka
50 organic Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans, ends trimmed
10-12 (4 oz) amber bottles
Avery square Kraft Brown labels (#22846) (or another label of your choice)
- Trim the ends off of your vanilla beans (save them in an airtight jar to toss into smoothies, homemade ice creams, etc.). Enjoy the delicious smell!
2. Place the vanilla beans into a 64 oz wide-mouth glass jar, then pour in both bottles of vodka and tightly secure the lid.
3. Optional: Make note of your start date on the lid (or elsewhere on the jar).
4. Shake vigorously.
5. Store in a cool, dark place (I kept mine in the kitchen cabinet).
6. Once a week, pull out the jar and give it a good shake. (I did this for the first month or two, but honestly, after that, I pretty much forgot all about the vanilla, and it just sat there, untouched).
7. Within a few months, your vodka will no longer be clear. It will look like… vanilla!
8. After 3-4 months, or (ahem) slightly longer, your vanilla extract is ready to bottle!
9. I used the Avery online template to create my custom labels, printed a sample on plain paper first to be sure I liked them, and then printed a full sheet of labels.
10. Use a funnel to ensure that you do not spill even one precious drop of your vanilla extract. I poured mine from the mason jar into a large glass measuring cup, and then from the measuring cup through the funnel, so that I would have better control of the process.
11. When you are done, wipe the bottles with a dry towel just in case there were any spills you didn’t notice, then screw on the lids and apply your custom labels and maybe a bit of raffia or ribbon.
As you can see, I couldn’t decide what kind of raffia/ribbon to use, and in the end, I think I may prefer just the clean, plain bottle with nothing attached. That’s probably because I’m not very good at tying pretty bows.
This batch wound up filling exactly 10 bottles, but I think it would have been more like 12 bottles if I hadn’t been sneaking vanilla straight from the jar for the last several weeks to make massive quantities of chia pudding…
If you get started by the end of this month, you’ll have a delicious batch ready in time for the 2015 holiday season. Or plenty of vanilla for your own consumption. Your choice. Either way, enjoy!