I must admit that I have a love/hate relationship with the holiday season. Well, perhaps love/hate is a bit strong. Let me explain.
I always put a lot of thought into the gifts I give, no matter whether they are handmade our purchased. Trust me this is not an exaggeration. I really try to make each gift special and one that will be enjoyed thoroughly by the recipient…not something that will be re-gifted or tossed into the the black hole located in the back of a cabinet. You know the place I’m talking about!
The problem is this. I always set lofty goals for myself regarding how many handmade gifts I’ll be giving. For an example, I have no idea why I think that when it usually takes me about 2 weeks to knit a pair of socks for a loved one, I think I can knit ten pairs between now and Christmas. Then my happy planning that occurred in early November becomes…
in mid December. I totally panic and trust me, I’m not all that fun to live with. Then around December 23, I realize that I won’t get all these gifts completed so I end up handing out I.O.U.s. Crazy, I know!
Well, one of the things I’ve learned when making gifts for people is that everyone eats! Yup! So, handmade gifts from the kitchen, or items that can be used in the kitchen, are always a huge hit! As a result, this year I am going to be focusing on gifts from the kitchen.
Last year I hosted a Homemade Holiday Party and I will be doing so again this year. I had hoped to have all the details hammered out by today but I still have a couple to flush out. In the meantime, what I am going to be sharing with you over the next couple of days are some gifts from the kitchen that are simple to prepare but need some time to “age”. I thought that it would be fun if we did these together rather than my just showing you the end result and then tell you it takes 4, 6, or 8 weeks to age. What do you think?
I have a lot of friends on my list who LOVE to bake. So one of the goodies I’m going to make is some…..
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Vanilla extract is super easy to prepare…it just needs time and patience. Now before I share my recipe with you, I’d like to share a little bit about making vanilla extract because there are TONS of recipes out there. The number of vanilla beans, type of alcohol, and length of “aging” time varies greatly. Here’s a bit about this so you can understand a bit more.
- It is the alcohol that extracts the vanilla flavor from the vanilla bean. As a result, the higher the proof, the quicker it will extract the vanilla flavor. So, if you use a cheaper vodka with a lower proof, you will need to have a much longer extraction time.
- Since it is the alcohol that extracts the flavor, you can choose which type of alcohol you use: vodka, bourbon, and rum for example. Vodka is used most often because it is virtually flavorless.
- Be sure to use fresh vanilla beans (they should be shiny and sticky) and the number, once again, varies. The fewer vanilla beans, the longer you will need to wait for a good vanilla extract.
- 6 fresh vanilla beans
- 1 cup 80 proof (40%) alcohol (I used 3/4 cup vodka and 1/4 cup bourbon to add a little depth of flavor)
Cut your vanilla beans into fourths (you will have 24 pieces).
Place the cut vanilla pieces in a clean jar. Measure out your alcohol and then pour it into the jar with your cut up vanilla pieces.
Place the lid on your jar and label with the date. Don’t you just love my washi tape label? Pretty snazzy if you ask me. Now give your jar a shake and place it is in a cool dark place.
Now comes the hard part…..the waiting! It will take about 6 weeks. Yup, you heard me, 6 weeks. But that’s fine. Christmas is almost 7 weeks away. All you have to do is occasionally give your jar a shake. That’s all!
Stop back on December 20 and I’ll have labels and ways for you to jazz this up for gift giving!
Sunday we’ll be prepping for Limoncello and Monday it will be Kahlua.