So, two Christmases ago, before I was the lucky mother of two children (and I had all sorts of free time), I decided to make all homemade gifts for my family. I made lovely gift baskets with lots of really cool homemade goodies including this glorious Vanilla Bean Extract. I couldn’t blog about it at the time because it would have spoiled the surprise for all my family. So I had big plans to blog about it in the fall of last year so my readers would have time to make this really thoughtful gift for their families in time for Christmas. Only I had a baby. So here we are in the last day of January 2016 and I’m not going to put it off anymore. Now you will have around 11 months to prepare to make Vanilla extract for everyone on your gift list. You could have a whole vanilla extract factory in that amount of time! Here’s how…
1) First you will need some dark amber bottles.
The dark color of the bottle keeps light out and preserves your finished product and helps it to last longer. SKS-bottle.com to the rescue! They have these lovely amber bottles that have the bonus of including tamper evident caps and pouring inserts that keep your vanilla beans from falling out every time you want extract. At less than $1.50 a piece for the 8 oz size (which by the way will hold enough vanilla extract to last your average home baker approximately a lifetime give or take) the price was definitely right! The 4 oz size are around $1 each. You just can’t find them any cheaper, I looked. I absolutely love the old fashioned look of these bottles.
2) Get some good quality vanilla beans.
For an 8 oz bottle you will need 7 beans per bottle.
I got mine from on Amazon. I got 1 pound of Madagascar Vanilla beans for $56.75. That’s over 100 beans. I looked and that price has gone up since I bought them, but you don’t need a whole pound. I got a bunch because I was making a lot of these for gifts and also using them for other projects (Homemade Kahlua!). If you’re only making a few of these you can get 25 beans for around $30.
3) Pick your poison.
You will need 1 cup 70 Proof Alcohol
Next you will need to decide if you want to make a bourbon vanilla or a vodka vanilla. Whether you use vodka or bourbon is up to you. Bourbon has more flavor than vodka and will yield a richer, deeper, final flavor. Vodka is a more neutral flavor and really lets the vanilla beans shine. Vodka is also less expensive if you’re trying to stay on a budget (Costco’s Kirkland brand is great!). You can also try light rum, I haven’t tried it but I read lots of reviews of people who loved it. Whichever you choose, avoid using alcohol with too high of an alcohol level as it can really break down the vanilla beans too much and it just won’t work right. 70 proof will do the trick.
4) Make the stuff.
Slice the beans in half and shove them down into your bottles. You can cut them into smaller pieces if you have a hard time fitting them in, but I liked the elegance of the long leggy beans.
Using a funnel, pour the alcohol into the bottle.
Press the white plastic strainer pieces firmly inside the openings of the bottles. (Sometimes they get hidden inside the caps if you can’t find them). Then affix the caps by pressing straight down firmly. If you’re having a hard time getting them on, try to twist gently to the right as you’re pressing down. Don’t twist too hard or you will break your tamper proof seal. It takes a little finesse but I love this feature. It makes them so finished and professional (especially if you wanted to sell these).
5) Labels & Presentation
I really love these brown Kraft labels for various purposes. They just look so old fashioned and I love the way they turned out against the amber bottles. I used a font called Chocolate Box from 1001freefonts. I used round ones but in the future I might use something with a different shape like these.
And rustic twine is just a must in my opinion. I buy twine by the roll and use it for everything. I wrap gifts with it, tie gift tags on with it, I wrap pencils in it, hang pictures with it. Tie my hair back with it. I’m a big time twine fan. Adding a little to these bottles just totally makes it special.
Finally, leave the extract for at least 8 weeks (or more!), shaking the bottles once a week for good measure. Enjoy!!