Such was my organizational move this year to prepare DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract (See our September post for details on getting things started). Three months ago boxes of bottles and vanilla beans arrived at my door and had my husband raising an eyebrow at my latest project. This project though, couldn't be easier, and while you may be a little behind, you are not too late to put it together for holiday gifts this year.
Vanilla extract comes together as one places sliced vanilla beans into a clean bottle and then covers with alcohol - different alcohols and different vanilla beans bring varying flavors. This year our extracts feature one of two different beans. My personal favorite, the light and floral Tahitian Bean, lends a lovely lighter vanilla flavor to any recipe, while the more traditional Bourbon Bean brings a touch of richness and a slightly bolder, traditional note to the table.
Filling most of our adorable little bottles (we got them for a good price at Specialty Bottle Company) with a good quality Vodka, the vanilla began to extract with in mere hours. Days later the liquid turned a light golden hue, and today, three months later, the bottles are ready with the deeper colors we expect from Pure Vanilla Extract. Note that the Bourbon beans seem to be bringing a richer, deeper flavor as well as color.
|Our hours old extract! Instagram from September....|
Our bottles closed with corks, and over the three months we did notice a bit of evaporation in a few. As such, a little online research showed me how to cover the bottle tops with a bottle wax providing a moisture-resistant coating which also preserves freshness, flavor and fragrance as well as giving our bottles a beautifully finished look. My research let me to Midwest Home Brewing and Wine Making Supplies out of Minnesota where we chose the burgundy color, but the little wax beads come in a multitude of colors for your every occasion.
To make the wax easy to remove, Liv and I wrapped a bit of baker's twine around the cork and around the top of the bottle, and then down the side, leaving enough to have a bit of twine hanging below the wax. Securing the twine with tape (to make dipping easier) our bottles were ready to dip, and we found the twine to work wonderfully as a little "pull tab" to cut through the wax when one is ready to open the bottle.
Attempting to ease clean up, we poured the wax beads into a clean and dry can and placed it over medium heat on the stove in a pot of water. Similar to melting chocolate, the boiling water was enough to melt the wax, though you might note that it took about about 10 minutes for the wax to become completely liquid. Please take great care when using the hot wax as it can cause serious burns if spilled onto the skin.
Once melted, carefully remove the wax can from the water and place on a sturdy surface, like a counter. Check to make sure your corks are very secure and then dip the bottle into the wax as far as desired, then remove slowly keeping the bottle facing downward so the wax does not drip down the sides of the bottle. Alternatively, turn your bottle upright and tilt and twist to allow the wax to drip down the sides. Once the wax stops dripping, place the bottle on your counter to set. We gave ours a second dip for a thicker wax coating.
Next up, a nice finishing touch is a label. While I designed and printed labels directly from my computer onto packing labels, templates are available online with a little searching. I did find that our labels stuck beautifully onto the glass bottle for about 20 minutes, then corners began to lift, and before I knew it, the labels were popping off all over. My best idea had me placing a piece of clear packing tape over the labels giving a nice water proof cover and a good stick, but not the most beautiful finish. Next year I hope to have a better labeling idea! If a label is not your thing, a piece of baker's twine with a little card hanging off the cork could be an alternate decorative and festive way to go.
Our vanilla extract "brewed" for about 3 months, and while I felt it was ready, I wouldn't mind it a touch stronger. To beef up the vanilla strength, our extract uses 2 beans to about 4 ounces of alcohol, and if you want to give these welcomed little gifts this year, you could simply write a little note saying explaining that the extract will be ready in March.
Easy, tasty, and from the heart, Homemade Vanilla Extract works beautifully as gifts for any holiday or occasion, or maybe as a little present to yourself...