Monday, August 20, 2012

Gift Idea: Homemade Vanilla Extract

I've been spending some time lately thinking about what Christmas presents to make this year. I know it's only August, but this year I really want spend the holidays enjoying the season as opposed to frantically prepping for every special moment and scrambling at the last minute to get everything done. I truly love getting homemade Christmas gifts and want to return the thoughtfulness and effort that so many friends and family put into their gifts to me. Hence why I'm thinking about this in August. I've decided on a couple gifts and plan to get the making underway this weekend. Unfortunately, I can't share any of those projects here, one of the would be recipients might see! But I can share one of last year's efforts, Homemade Vanilla Extract. 

There are TONS of tutorials online that provide excellent step by step instructions. It really was simple and turned out delicious and high quality stuff! I'd highly recommend doing it. We ended up using Tahitian Vanilla Beans and Smirnoff vodka for our batch. When you read about how many beans to use, don't believe the posts that have you using 3 per 8 oz bottle. Use 5-6. Ours sat for several months and we ended up adding more into each bottle that we gave just so that it could keep infusing and making the vanilla flavor richer. Fortunately, the extra beans we added at the last minute have done the trick because everyone who uses the vanilla claims it's good stuff. 

It was fun to design the packaging for the bottle, tho, here's another tip, if you end up printing it on an inkjet printer, spray it with a nice top coat before you cut it out and affix it to the bottle. The inevitable drips of vanilla end up bleeding the image if you don't! Doh! Lesson learned there. 

We paired the vanilla with a recipe book filled with ideas for how to use the vanilla. We found all kinds of fun uses for vanilla both sweet and savory. Here's a list of the recipes we rustled up: 

Spiced Pecans
Spring Vanilla Vinigarette
Vanilla and Black Peppercorn Pork
Vanilla Shrimp Crostini
Hot Chocolate
Old Fashioned Pancakes
Vanilla Cupcake
Vanilla Biscotti
Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Vanilla Sauce
Vanilla Creme Brulee
Pear Vanilla Crisp
Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal
Vanilla Chai Tea
Vanilla Cream Soda
Vanilla Sugar Scrub

I tried out most of the recipes before including them, but they all looked so interesting to me! For a couple of the gifts, I packaged them in a little basket with a pre-made jar of sugar scrub and a cookie scoop as I figured mostly the vanilla would be used for cookies! 

This little vanilla experiment definitely peaked my interest for other types of infusing experiments. I cant wait to try more. Feel free to ask me for any more information about the vanilla adventure! There are certainly many more details I can share if you're looking to make some of your own.

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m.s.Woods said...

I love your artistic label! Is your extract something that can be purchased locally, here in the Indy area? --Mike Woods

Amy Kingman said...

Thank you! No, it is not available for purchase her in Indy. It was a tiny batch I made for family and friends at Christmas time. :)