I'm just getting around to sharing our gift for many of our friends and neighbors. While the holidays are over, I thought you might like to see it. I'd pinned the idea over the summer and finally made a batch in the Fall for holiday gifts.
If you already know how to make homemade vanilla, I'm about to add a few reasons to the list of why you should bother. If you haven't yet stopped to ponder how vanilla is made, prepare for your mind to be blown. It's so simple. Something we pay a bajillion dollars for at the grocery store (unless you go the imitation route) is actually ridiculously easy to make. There are no less than a thousand posts out there about it, but here's the gist: alcohol + vanilla beans + bottle + time. If you're only making one, the cost savings is negligible. But if you're making a few the cost for each one gets silly good. So good that you'd never think about using imitation vanilla to save money. And you'd be willing to make some to share.
Before you can give Judgement-Free Homemade Vanilla, you've got to make it. As far as the alcohol component of mine, I used vodka. Purchased in bulk with a wee bit of guilt over the quantity. I desperately wanted to tell the guy at the counter that I'm not an alcoholic and that I was making Christmas gifts, but that guy probably hears way more interesting stories and doesn't care what I had to say as long as the debit card worked.
I used vanilla beans from Beanilla. You can by beans at the grocery store but they're pricey. Crafty friend Jen was putting together a bulk order for a group of crafty moms, and she and I split a 1/2 lb bag of Bourbon Vanilla beans for a lot less than it would cost locally.
My bottles came from Amazon. I was sure I wanted clear glass bottles and white tops, and bought 2 dozen of them. If you've saved empty bottles to upcycle you're ahead of the game.
Assembly couldn't be easier. I snipped the long beans in half and put three pieces in each bottle, poured the vodka on top and sealed it up to sit in the box for a while. How long is a while? Well, some people say 30 days, some people say 60, some say 90 +, and some I've read have said "I give it with a note that says wait 30 days to use it". I say do whatever. It's a gift. Do it whichever way works for you.
|The longer it sits, the more caramelly the color.|
|I shook the bottle before taking this shot. All those little bean bits are yummy in whatever you're making.|
- For bakers, this Potbelly sugar cookie clone.
- For coffee drinkers this simple cinnamon vanilla yumminess.
- For cocktail drinkers maybe one of these many options.
- For an (almost) non-alcoholic option I'm digging this vanilla lemonade.
Lastly, you need a label. And this is really the point of my post. The label makes this a gift that doesn't say "you should bake something", 'cause even bakers don't always feel up to baking. Instead, the label says, more or less, "Happy Holidays, however you plan on indulging." It doesn't, however, offer any holding back of the hair. You're on your own there. We're just saying we won't judge.*
You can download a PDF of the labels here. They print at roughly 3" x 4", but you could easily size it down a little for smaller bottles. I chose to use a sticker maker to make the labels sticky solely because it's fun and I had one available, but you can also print on sticker paper. Or print on card stock and tie them on with baker's twine, embroidery floss, yarn or ribbon. You get the idea.
*unless you use imitation vanilla, which is a byproduct of the paper industry or is derived from coal tar. I wish I was kidding.