I know some of you really don’t want to talk about this right now.
I don’t blame you. I, too, dislike it when holidays jump the gun, usurping the holidays that come before them, hogging space on store shelves way before their time. But sometimes gifts take planning and more time than you’d have if you waited until after Thanksgiving.
So you might need to think about (I’m about to say it) Christmas gifts now. Especially if you want to make these super cute vanilla gifts. These are gifts I gave out last year, and I thought they came together pretty well with a fairly minimal time commitment.
These gifts were made up of vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, and vanilla bean scones.You might be thinking, wait a minute… I’ve heard that making vanilla extract takes 2-3 months! There’s not that much time before Christmas! Well, you’d be wrong. If you do it the way I did it, it will only take about a month.
I was making vanilla for several gifts, so instead of trying to make the vanilla in the bottles I was going to give them in, I made a big batch and split it up after the extract was finished.
And when I say a big batch…
…I mean that I turned a whole 750 mL bottle of vodka into vanilla extract. You’re best of weighing your vanilla beans, since apparently you can get anywhere from 70-250 beans per pound, depending on what kind you get. I bought my beans from this eBay store and they have really good instructions for making extract, which is what I used, and where I got the info I’m sharing with you. They recommend 2 oz of beans per pint. 1 pint = 2 cups, so you really are looking for 1 oz per cup of vodka. And 750 mL equals 3.17 cups, so you want 3 oz (ish) of beans for a 750 mL bottle of vodka. You’ll have to pour off some of the vodka in the bottle to make room for the beans. Sorry if that’s confusing.
So here’s the secret to getting your vanilla to extract faster. Most instructions tell you to split your beans lengthwise, but it will go faster if you chop the beans into 1/2 inch segments. It’s certainly not as pretty, but I don’t want to sit around for an extra month waiting for my vanilla to be done.
Once you’ve combined the vodka and vanilla beans, you’ll want to shake the bottle about once a day for a month.
When it’s done, it should be a deep amber color. Homemade vanilla will not get as dark as some commercial brands because those have added color.
When it came time to give the gifts, I split a vanilla bean (leaving one end intact to make it easier to get it in & out) and filled it with extract. I added the bean to make it look nicer, and so that if the recipients wanted to, they could add a little bit of vodka as they used the vanilla to make more.
I got these bottles from Amazon. I had the hardest time finding bottles that would work, for some reason. These bottles are intended to limoncello wedding favors, of all overly-specific things. They hold somewhere between 3 and 4 oz, if I remember right.
When I started the extract, I also started some vanilla sugar. I split a vanilla bean, put it in a jar & added sugar. After sitting together for a while, the resulting sugar tastes & smells like vanilla. It’s great for coffee or even baking cookies. One word of advice– make sure your jars are COMPLETELY dry before putting the sugar in, or you’ll end up with rock-hard sugar. Not that I know from experience or anything…
The cute little bamboo spoons I also found on Amazon.
I packaged these up with homemade vanilla bean scones (from this Pioneer Woman recipe) in a large-ish gable box. I had tried, in vain, to find a box that was tall enough to fit the vanilla bottles upright, but they weren’t to be found. So I made extra sure the covers were on tight and crossed my fingers that they wouldn’t leak. I had a little bit of filler in the bottom to help keep the glass a little safer from potential breakage.
On the outside I added raffia and a tag, and it was good to go!
This gift took some effort at the beginning of the holiday season, but made things so much easier closer to Christmas. Think about making some nice vanilla gifts for your loved ones this year!