Every year for Christmas I get all of the wonderful ladies I work with a Christmas gift. I can't spend too much per person since there are 9 ladies, but, I want to get them something nice. In the past I've bought them little Christmas plates, I've done candles, just a little something to show how much I enjoy working with them. Well, this year, I wanted to do something different. Something I'd never done for them. So, I decided to do a homemade gift.
I absolutely LOVE getting something that someone has made. I have made homemade items before and I know just how much love you put into something that you make for someone. So when someone gives me something that they made, well, it makes me feel pretty darn special. Special because I know they cared enough to give me something that they put so much time and effort into. Hey, making something homemade is hard work!
In doing some blog surfing I came across an amazing blog. It is called The Italian Dish and, if you visit, you will enjoy meeting Elaine and checking out her amazing recipes. She is a GREAT cook, and a photographer, so her blog looks beautiful! Turns out, she made homemade vanilla extract as party favors for her Christmas party last year and I thought the bottles looked so impressive, but were so easy to make, I knew I had to give it a go. For the exact details, please see Elaine's post, as she does such a beautiful job of giving you all the details for making this I won't begin to compete with her. I'll just show you pictures of MY homemade vanilla extract, and give you some tips I learned along the way.
First of all, I ordered the Boston bottles from Specialty Bottle just like Elaine did. I checked on ebay and some other sites but Specialty Bottle was the cheapest place I found. My sister and I went together on this little project so we ordered 30 bottles. That gave me bottles of vanilla extract for the ladies I work with, my sister bottles for the ladies she works with, a bottle for each of us and for our sweet baby sister, and a few extra for each of us to give to friends. I ordered the bourbon vanilla beans from Beanilla. Again, I checked locally but it was much less expensive to order the beans from Beanilla, and pay shipping, than it was to buy them at a local health food store. I ordered 25 beans. We split each bean down the middle from top to bottom, and then cut each of those in half, giving us four "pieces" per bean. That gave us three "pieces" to put in each jar. We then poured unflavored vodka into the bottles, put the lids on and let them set.
Elaine's recipe calls for the beans and vodka to steep about two months. We made our vanilla extract in October, so it has been not quite two months. About two weeks ago we were a little concerned that our vanilla extract didn't look quite dark enough, and didn't have a strong vanilla aroma. So I ordered 10 more vanilla beans, split them into four pieces and added one more piece to each bottle of vanilla (for a total of four pieces or one whole bean per bottle). That really has made a difference, and when I do this again, which I will, I will put four pieces into each bottle.
For the labels, again I followed Elaine's lead and ordered the lables from My Own Labels. It is a neat company with tons of really cute labels to choose from. After seeing how cute Elaine's bottles turned out I ordered the same labels she did and am very pleased with them. The labels we ordered had a minimum order of 24, and they come on sheets of 12 labels, so we ordered 36 labels. In hindsight, I wish we had ordered 36 bottles but, we will know for next time.