Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vanilla Extract-teachers gift

Every year we make Thank You gifts for my boy's teachers, aides and therapists. Basically everybody who has helped us all year long. We have done this since my oldest was in preschool. We have always been lucky to have great people working with our son. He has made amazing progress and we couldn't have gotten as far as we have with out all their help. For that I am eternally grateful and want them to know it. Many of them are more than just people that work with our son, they have become friends. When my youngest started preschool we have done the same with his teacher and classroom aides. We also give a little something to the bus drivers and their aides but it is usually something smaller since they don't actually work with my boys. But we do appreciate them getting our children to and from school safely. This makes for a LOT of people to give to. We do it twice a year, once at Christmas and once at the end of the school year. For Christmas I made more than a dozen 4oz vanilla extract bottles for all the teachers, aides and therapists. Last year my oldest was in Kindergarten. When we gave a gift to his speech therapist she told me that most parents don't give gifts to the therapists. Often times they get forgotten. She was so pleased to be remembered and thanked. If your child sees a therapist at school or the school physiologist, don't forget to give them a little something too. It does not have to be much. They will love it and be happy to have been remembered.

Anjeanette made her vanilla extract long before I did but, I did mine on a much bigger scale. We are talking a lot of vodka here! In the end my gifts were really inexpensive and gave a lot of bang for my buck. I found a place on line that sells empty glass bottles. There are probably many products you buy regularly that use dark glass bottles in the 4 oz size. Children's medicine for one. For my personal vanilla I used an A-1 bottle that I thoroughly cleaned out and removed the label from. Use dark colored bottles (cobalt, green or amber) so that they block light which can break down your vanilla over time. I like the idea of recycling bottles for this. I needed to make something like 18 so I didn't have that option. If you want to recycle bottles you can soak the labels in hot water and scrape off as much of the label as you can. Most times you can get all of the paper off with just the glue left behind. Use Goo Gone to get rid of the remaining glue. I also have to mention that my husband had me make some to give as gifts to the employees he manages. We got lots of Thank Yous from all.
For Christmas gifts I used.
4 oz amber bottles w/caps
Small plastic cookie cutters
Red ribbon
Labels printed from my computer
Sticker maker
1 vanilla bean per bottle (cut in half to fit)

As and end-of-year gift use
4 oz amber bottles w/caps
Make a charm to hang off the neck
Labels printed using the computer
Sticker maker

1 vanilla bean per bottle (cut in half to fit)

If you plan to give these as gifts (especially if you don't plan to add a bean to each bottle) you will need to start this 8 weeks ahead of time. It takes 8 weeks before the vanilla will be ready to use. If you don't start this that far in advance, put 1 bean per bottle and make a tag that tells them when the vanilla will be ready for use.

For the Vanilla itself you will need:
3 vanilla bean per cup of vodka
1 teaspoon dark rum per cup of vodka (you can buy those tiny bottle like they sell on airplanes)

I started my vanilla in a 750ml bottle of vodka (I had to remove a bit of the vodka so it didn't over flow). As you might imagine that didn't make 18 4oz bottles so I ended up getting one of the big bottles as well. Before you start decide what size bottles you want to use and how many plus what you want to keep for yourself. That is why I gave you the basic recipe. If using a clear bottle to brew your vanilla, just store it in a dark cabinet and light won't be an issue.

For a 750ml bottle of Vodka you will need:
9 beans
3 teaspoons dark rum

Lets talk about beans for a minute. I found my beans at Costco in a pack of 10 for a great price. Anjeanette found them locally at Arizona Vanilla Co also, I believe, for a great price. There are many kinds of vanilla beans out there. Each region produces a vanilla bean that is different from the next. There are several varieties of vanilla plants and the soil, climate and, curing process make a difference in the taste of the bean. Tahitian beans are very expensive and are prized to be the best. Madagascar beans are said to be the next best to Tahitian beans. Mexican beans are said to be more woody in flavor because they are cured out in the sun on tiles rather than hung up in a curing house. Some growers will let the bean cure on the plant itself. They call the curing process Killing the bean. The beans I bought from Costco are from Rodelle and came in 2 great glass tubes (5 beans per tube). The package didn't specify what kind of beans these are but their web site talks about Madagascar beans. The package said they were a product of New Guinea if I remember right. Whatever beans you buy, you want them to be plump and moist.

Before you put your beans in the vodka you will need to split the beans down the center. To do this start about 1 inch from the top and run your knife down the middle of the bean. If you are splitting these to go straight into 4 oz bottles then cut your bean in half and then split each half the same way. Otherwise you will need to cut your beans in half when pouring the finished product into the individual bottles.

This is what your bean will look like once you split it.

You will need to shake the bottle every day or so. I recommend making the whole batch in one large bottle (like the vodka bottle), then pour the finished product into their own bottles. I then cut my split beans in half to fit the 4 oz bottles. I put one whole bean in each bottle. Adding the bean makes for a nice touch that store bought vanilla does not offer. Also it will be a gift that keeps on giving if the recipient adds more vodka when they have used about half. They can do this until the bean is gone.

This is the label I made to stick on the bottles. I printed several on a page and cut them out. I put them through my sticker maker then applied them to the bottles. I put the labels on after I filled the bottles and dried them off. I wanted to make sure that I didn't get any spills on the labels.

I punched a hole in one corner and tied it with a ribbon around the neck of the bottle. You can tie on seasonal cookie cutters to add something a little extra to the finished package like I did with the bottle at the top of the page.

If you make your own vanilla, you will LOVE it. Anjeanette will be happy to vouch for just how great vanilla can be.

Another note: To make Vanilla Vodka for cocktails remove the vanilla beans after 2 weeks.

Also, Vodka is Gluten Free because of the distilling process so you can feel safe using this for all your gluten free cooking. AND it is much more cost effective than buying extract that says it is gluten free.



Anjeanette here. I LOVE my homemade vanilla. I use it all the time. I am kind of a vanilla freak and have always loved vanilla. I usually use twice what is called for in recipes. This is so much better than the stuff I used to buy in the stores. I bake at least once a week and I just love my vanilla.


Unknown said...

Hi! Thanks for sharing this, I can think of several people that would love to receive homemade vanilla for a gift.
thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on my homemade headboard! I hope you visit again soon. Have a great day.

Loralynn said...

What a fabulous idea! I never even thought about making my own vanilla! I will definately be trying this out and making it for Christmas presents! Awesome! Thanks!