I've been busy.
This is part of the stash of homemade Christmas Happy Gifts that I've made lately. We didn't really buy gifts for the adults in the family this year, but there were some people I wanted to do something nice for, so I came up with a few ideas.
I wanted to try out some different things to see what worked best and what I might want to repeat in future years. With that in mind, I took pictures of everything before I took a box to lunch with some of my dear friends today and will hopefully post instructions for how I made each item over the next few days. This way when I get ready to make stuff next year, I'll remember!
I'll start with the easiest one, the vanilla.
how I started it here. I let it steep until, a couple of days ago. Once a week or so I'd give the bottle a good shake. That's it. That was all the prep. Meanwhile, a few weeks ago I bought the special amber bottles, eight of the 4oz bottles and two of the 8oz bottles, from Specialty Bottle Company. Vanilla will degrade in clear bottles if it's exposed to light, so the amber bottles are the best way to go.
A couple of days ago I was ready to bottle up my vanilla. First I sterilized my bottles in the dishwasher on the sanitize setting. Then I strained the vanilla through a mesh strainer with a coffee filter, which sorta worked, and some cheese cloth, which sorta worked, and the very last bit I put through a paper towel, which also mostly worked. The idea is to get the biggest part of the bean scraps out, although there will be some specks left. All that was left was to pour up the liquid into the bottles (using a funnel, of course), add a bean or two to each bottle and seal up with the tops.
I'm giving away all the 4oz bottles, but kept the big 8oz bottle (and another partial 8oz bottle of what was left) for myself. I wanted to package them nicely, but had limited supplies. I bought the labels at Office Depot and was able to use them on all my projects with some sheets left over. I used ribbon I already had to pretty them up. And I had a set of measuring spoons in pretty colors that I'd picked up for $2 at Fred's, so I divided them up and tied one onto each bottle with the ribbon. I also printed out a little tag for each one. I saved all my tags on my computer, but in case I lose the file I'll post it here:
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Yes, there are beans in your vanilla! The beans keep the vanilla “brewing” to make it stronger as it sits in your cabinet. The dark specks in the vanilla come from the bean and are normal. Shake before use, unless you are using in a light colored dessert where the shaking will stir up the specks.
And that's all there was to it. I gave out four bottles at a lunch time baby shower some friends had for me today and I have more to give to some of the family for Christmas. I'm not torn on what to do with my leftover beans. I think I'll probably dry some and grind into powder, or make some vanilla sugar to use in the sugar scrubs I like. But sugar scrubs are a post for later...