Make homemade vanilla extract now for Christmas gifts!

Last year, we gave a bunch of people homemade vanilla extract for Christmas. Was it appreciated? I have no idea. But we kept a bunch for ourselves, and it is wonderful. Here’s our current personal stash:

photo (64)

It was quite cheap, and you can really taste the difference in recipes over store bought vanilla extract. (The boys also add a bit to their mice’s drinking water a few times a month, to make them stink a bit less. In theory.)

Best of all, it’s SUPER EASY. The only hard part is thinking ahead a bit. It takes a month at the very least, but the longer you let it sit, the nicer it gets. All you have to do is buy some cheap liquor, split or chop a bunch of vanilla beans, throw them in the bottle of alcohol, and wait. (More detailed directions here, but there’s really not much more to it.)

We used Smirnoff Vodka, but you can use rum or bourbon. Buying expensive liquor won’t make it taste any better, so go for cheapski or middleski.

You can make it in individual bottles,

vanilla bottles

or make it in one big bottle and then decant it into something more decorative when you’re ready to give it to people.

We bought bottles like these (8 oz. each, case of 12 for about $20), but there are many lovely varieties to be found online. If I had time, I’d scout out thrift stores and find some pretty, old fashioned bottles in interesting shapes. Just make sure they have a tight cap or cork!

We chose Madagascar vanilla beans like these (about 30 beans for about $20). I think we may go with Mexican beans this year (they are supposed to have a spicier taste, but are a bit more expensive). Here’s an assortment of different types of beans (40 for about $20)

vanilla beans

plus labels like this, so we could personalize the bottles

labels

or you could go with tags. Lots of possibilities here, to make it as cute or elegant or artsy as you like.

I just bought a bunch of cheery red bows and tied them on with jingle bells from the dollar store, and it made cute little packages. This would also work for wedding or party favors, depending on how you decide to dress the bottles up.

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  • Eileen

    I like this idea. These days, I really prefer to make my own stuff rather than buy something already made. But I pretty much only use vanilla for baking desserts. And since I only bake dessert at most once a week (and really more like twice a month), a bottle of Kirkland vanilla lasts me a few years until I throw it out to buy a fresh one. So just now I googled recipes that call for vanilla. I see lots of chicken recipes. I’m always looking for new and exciting ways to make chicken (which we eat all the time and it can really get blah), so what I want to know: has anyone here ever used vanilla in a chicken recipe? What other (non dessert) recipes do you use vanilla in?

    • op3mom

      I like to add vanilla extract to smoothies or coffee…if you drink soda you can add it to that…a little goes a long way, especially with the homemade.

      • Keary McHugh

        When using the homemade variety in recipes, have you found that you needed to reduce the amount you put in, versus the store bought?

  • Michelle

    I did this last year for gifts and to keep for our own use. I washed the labels off old beer bottles and used tapered corks for lids.