Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Christmas on a Budget - Homemade Vanilla Extract

Many of us are on a budget, which can make holiday gift giving very difficult. I'm sure homemade gifts have crossed the minds of many, but how do you do it without looking cheap or hokey? You do homemade with a little frugal pizzazz, that's how! A great idea is homemade vanilla extract.
Here's what you need:
  • Vanilla beans
  • Vodka
  • Bottles
  • About 2 months of time to let the flavors fuse
Here's the recipe:
  1. Cut a slit in your vanilla beans down the middle lengthwise (start about 1/4" from each end)
  2. Place about 3 beans in each bottle (more if you're using large bottles or jars)
  3. Fill with cheap vodka and seal
  4. Place in a cool, dark place for 2 months
  5. Shake once per week
You'll know the extract is ready when it takes on the color and scent of vanilla extract. You can personalize the bottles with cute labels. The great thing about this is you don't have to personalize gifts. I suggest making an extra couple of bottles for unexpected gifts for bosses, teachers, etc. If you're a procrastinator like myself, you can always put a hangtag around the neck of the bottles stating "Ready for use on *insert date*"

Now the ingredients can get expensive if you don't know where to look. Here are the best deals I've found for beans and bottles. Keep in mind you can use old mason jars or whatever you'd like.

You can also add a couple of vanilla beans to a whole bottle of your favorite liquor to create vanilla infused spirits.

Vanilla Beans: or you can always check Amazon.
Bottles:  idea and another idea

When purchasing beans, remember - they're going to be split, bottled and soaked in booze so you don't need the top quality beans that are so expensive. Look for grade B, they make a good extract.

If you're on a strict holiday budget and aren't sure if this is practical, do this:
  • Determine how many people you would like to give vanilla extract to
  • Price the bottles
  • Price the beans
  • Price the alcohol
  • Divide total price by amount of bottles you'll make, and there is your price per person

There you have it, vanilla extract. What are your frugal gift ideas?


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