Homemade Christmas Prep {Vanilla Extract}

I've got a fantastic diy Christmas gift to share with you. Classy, useful, and homemade. Not pipe cleaner ornaments from the kiddos homemade... or crochet potholders from Grandma homemade, either. Both are lovely but this is an ooooooh kind of gourmet-gorgeous-homemade.

Isn't it a little soon for Christmas stuff? No way. Two reasons:

1. Seven kids. New baby. Homeschooling. All things considered, I'm actually starting a little late.

2. This gift needs time to become lovely. Two months minimum. If you do start late, you can easily add a note to the package: "Do not use until 1/25/2014" (or whenever).

What you will need for Gourmet Homemade Vanilla Extract:

~1~

VODKA.

No, not for you to drink, feisty ladies. It's an ingredient. I wasn't tempted to drink it at all actually.  I've had only one run in with vodka in my life... and Vodka won. Besides that, it reminds me remotely of the smell of nail polish remover. Can you tell I'm not a big drinker?

This brand of Vodka came with a very high recommendation for taste plus it's gluten-free and made in Texas, USATito's Handmade Vodka.

I love this photo because it just screams motherhood. Kitchen in a state of distress (although that's a good thing because it is being transformed into something better). Baby watching my every move in the background, waiting bug-eyed for me to be finished with my diversion. Bottle of almost empty Vodka on a piece of painted plywood. (I consumed none of the horrid beverage because I have responsibilities, eh?) And finally, a poorly lighted photo taken by a cheap camera. I am what I am and grace and mercy make it all good. (How's that for some deep theology? Forgive me, dear husband.)

~2~

VANILLA BEANS.

Get the good ones. Do not buy dried up ones from the grocery store for this recipe. Go gourmet. There are various places to do this but I was pleased with the service from Beanilla. I ordered a couple extra so that Professor could play around with them in some recipes. Now that I'm looking around a little, I do see that Amazon carries a very similar product here.

If you're not into ordering from multiple places, Beanilla does sell kits for making vanilla extract. It's more expensive but might make a lovely single gift. 

~3~

BOTTLES

I have a fascination with containers and bottles of all kinds, especially glass. Perhaps the real reason that I went for this project was because I got to place an order from Specialty Bottle. I used their products to package sugar scrub last year. Please note that shipping is a real mood killer when you go to check out. Glass is heavy and hard to package so it's not cheap. You'll probably at least double your bottle prices with the shipping. Just be aware and factor it in to your budget. I also just checked Amazon and they do have similar bottles for a good price if you have Prime. But really, you can use any glass container for this.

The bottle on the left is full but still clear because it was filled just before I took this picture.

The temporary countertop is painted plywood. The pink curtain is an old sheet. Minor inconveniences for  long term kitchen awesome!

~4~

LABELS

I think I like labels almost as much as I like bottles and jars. On the recommendation of other DIYers, I placed an order with this company. I'm super happy with the result. I usually make my own for things I make but I needed something spill proof and Christmas worthy. Select food grade labels because they're vinyl (waterproof/vanilla proof) and can be repositioned if you stick them on wrong the first time.

~5~

THE RECIPE

There are a billion recipes online but I love the photos and recommendations on The Italian Dish. Her pics are so pretty (although she has no baby in her pics, which is most unfortunate).

It took me only half an hour to put it all together and the kids could easily have put this together by themselves. The kids scraped wallpaper while I jazzed up the environment with the awesome smell of real vanilla beans.

Perhaps the absolute best part of this whole thing is that this is a gift that will last for a very long time. When you hit the bottom of the bottle, simply add more vodka and let it steep again. This might be a cute hostess gift when paired with a bottle of vodka!

When I placed my bottle order, I added a few more for myself. We go through tons of pure vanilla extract in our house (I'm a smoothie junkie) and usually purchase the large bottles at our wholesale club. I plan on keeping a rotating stock, using one bottle while the others continue to steep. In the long run, this will be a much cheaper option. And healthier for those of us with gluten sensitivities.

Incidentally, we are thinking about having our Jellybean tested for Celiacs since she has a number of symptoms but are going to do an elimination diet with her first to get some data. If anyone has a moment to send up an Ave, I'd appreciate it. It doesn't sound that big on paper but you try telling the kindergartner she can't have a piece of birthday cake. I'm a softie... we'll see how it goes.

Linking up with Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee (temporarily hosting for Hallie) for 5 Favorites

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Posted on October 30, 2013 and filed under "christmas gifts", "five favorites", "handmade Christmas", "vanila".