Monday, December 6, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Extract

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.

Aren't these just the cutest bottles you've ever seen????   Won't they make AWESOME gifts???  And real vanilla extract is SO MUCH BETTER than the "imitation vanilla" that you buy at the store.  And if you try to buy real vanilla extract, well, the price will definitely make you think twice.  Making your own is much less expensive. 

Now, a few things I learned.  Like I said, in the future I will order one bean (4 pieces) per bottle.  The vanilla extract is richer with 4 pieces than it was with 3.  As to the labels, while I am really impressed with them, they were a little pricey.  And, with their limitations, my sister and I weren't able to personalize the labels as we had originally planned.  In checking Elaine's blog this year, she has made vanilla extract again.  She used the same bottles, but bought Epson self-adhesive sheets and made her own labels.  Very cute!  Next time I will make my own labels.  MUCH less expensive, and more options!

So, if you are looking for an easy homemade gift idea, I would highly recommend making homemade vanilla extract.  Honestly, it's not too late to make them for this year.  The vanilla extract will need to steep for awhile, but I am certain anyone you give these to will be very impressed and would be willing to wait for homemade vanilla extract.  And be sure to keep one for yourself.  It smells DELICIOUS!!!!!  I can't wait to use mine for baking! 

Please share any homemade gifts ideas you have given, or received!  We're all here to learn from each other, so please comment!!


  1. Thank you, thank you, *Thank You*!!! This is a wonderful tutorial, and I totally appreciate your 2 cents on what you would do differently. What amazing gifts... so pretty too. I thought I would do these after seeing some last Christmas, however, of course I didn't get around to it. What do you think about making them now, and enclosing instructions to leave them for a couple months? Would this work? Thanks again! Oh, and last year I made 'bread in a jar' - you can find many recipes & tips online to suit your tastes. worked great... i just baked the breads into the wide mouth pint canning jars. After giving, the recipients said they slipped right out w/ no problem.. and then sliced to serve. -Tammy

  2. Got any job openings at your office? I want to work with you to get one of those beautiful hand made gifts.

  3. Hello Flat Creek Farm! Thanks for your kind comment. I think making them now would be GREAT! These are such cute gifts. Just give them a note telling them the vanilla needs 6 to 8 weeks before it's ready to use. I know anyone would LOVE to receive these. Thanks for the "bread in a jar!" GREAT IDEA! Merry Christmas! Robbin

  4. This is absolutely brilliant. I have never heard of such wonders and am going to go check out the recipe. You should post next October to remind us to get going on this gift! :)

    I always love to make Cran Raising Cookies in a jar and give that away...or just plain ol baking. I love your original idea!

  5. Those are so pretty!!I should make something like that for here at home.. I dont have anything like that off the top of my head.. Great job!

  6. Oh, I so wish I could get some made before Christmas. But considering we are down to just days I guess not. My daughter-in-law would love some!

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. What a wonderful gift idea! I'll be remembering this. Thanks for sharing! ~Cheryl

  8. I have seen this done on another blog, and I just loved it. I haven't made the splurge and bought the supplies; but the more I see about making vanilla, the more I want to try it!