We’re moving into “birthday season” around here. Starting in September we have two or more birthday’s a month to celebrate, until February. Then we take a month off and have four more birthdays in March. Plus, there is Christmas tucked in there as well. With so many gifts to buy, make, or track down, I try to start thinking about what we might do in August.
I wonder, do you guys have anyone in your lives that is hard to buy gifts for? For Charlie and I, it’s our parents. We are both very close with our families and know them well. It’s not that we can’t think of things our parents would like, but the things we come up with are a. too expensive for our budget or b. something the person has/will just purchased for themselves if they want it. You know what I mean? So, it becomes hard to find a personal gift, that they will really enjoy.
Once in a while I feel like we’ve come up with really good gifts: Broncos tickets for Charlie’s parents (we were able to split the cost with Charlie’s sibs, and buy them from a friend who has season tickets so they were actually affordable) they are HUGE football fans. A few really cute and collectable decorations for my Mom when she was really into a country decorating style a while back. Sentimental gifts made by our kids alway work well, since everyone adores them. But, you can’t do that for every gift, every year, you know what I mean?
I think we, my husband and I that is, are in the stage that is easiest to buy gifts for. There is always a treat we wish we could buy for ourselves, but will never spend the money on because we would rather see it go to paying off a bill, or getting something for our kids. My husband totally wants an xbox one, and I always want new clothes, books, or some snazzy electronic device. (Obviously we are very spoiled/blessed to even be thinking about these things, a fact for which I am very thankful!)
I also think that people who have a specific hobby are easier to buy gifts for. For example, I love getting food gifts. Lucky for me my family knows me well, and I am often gifted with interesting and tasty foodstuffs (again, I am so spoiled). Most recently I’ve been gifted with an awesome Thai spice blend from my bro, truffle salt from my Mom (OMG so tasty), and homemade vanilla extract for my cousin Kyra. Yeah, my family is totally awesome, right?
So, yes last Christmas my cousin Kyra gave me a giant bottle of homemade vanilla extract. Since I go through vanilla extract by the gallon, and it’s rather expressive, I was totally thrilled. (Believe it or not I used up my ginormous bottle in about 5 months. Yikes! I bake way too much…) And not only did Kyra make me this lovely gift, she also explained how to make the extract as well. Obviously, I needed to share this brilliance with you guys.
Who knew it was so darn easy? Basically we are soaking Vanilla bean pods in vodka here people, and thats it. Wait a few weeks and you’ve got vanilla extract! Best of all you can scrape all that wonderful vanilla bean stuff out of the pod and use it to make something else (Like no churn vanilla ice cream!). The pod alone makes for a great extract.
Before you ask I will say, yes, Vanilla beans are expensive. I spend about $8 for three organic pods at my local grocery store. But making your own extract is still worth it, because compared to buying those tiny little bottles of extract for $12 bucks a pop, you’ve got a seriously good deal going on. Those three pods are making me a MONSTER () bottle of extract. Heck it might even last me a whole year. Yes, win!
So, anyhow, here’s the recipe so you can make it for yourself, or give it away as a fun gift for your foodie and baker friends. Enjoy.
Homemade Vanilla Extract– Yields 16oz. Vanilla Extract. (Recipe can doubled or tripled, or whatever, just fine.)
- 6-10 Vanilla Beans (Bourbon, Madagascar, Tahitian, or Mexican all work fine.)
- 16 oz of any inexpensive 80 proof vodka
- sealable clean glass jar or bottle large enough to hold 16 oz.
- small funnel that fits in the mouth of your jar
1. Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. If desired, use a small spoon to scrape out the vanilla beans to reserve for another recipe. Leave at least a little bit of the bean in the pod for the best flavored vanilla. It is also ok to leave everything inside inside the pod and add it all to the extract.
2. Put the pods in the bottle, and use the funnel to pour the vodka into the bottle and over the beans, making sure they are completely submerged.
3. Store the jar or bottle of vanilla beans in a cool dark place for one month (or longer if you want a stronger flavored vanilla). After a month the vanilla will be ready to use. You can strain the extract using a coffee filter or cheese cloth layered several times, if desired. However, if you leave the pods in the bottle they will continue to infuse and make a stronger extract.
Note: Pods can be used for multiple batches of extract, though you may want to add a few fresh pods each time you refill the bottle with vodka for infusing. As with the original batch, allow any subsequent batches to infuse for at least a month. Eventually the pods will no longer have enough flavor left to make extract, but you may want to use them to make vanilla sugar.