Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmastime is Here

Personally, I enjoyed the cool morning, with my newly finished, hand knit sweater, and a stack of packages waiting to be sifted through, presents waiting to be wrapped. 


We usually make some of our preserves into smaller jars to give as gifts at Christmastime.  It is the perfect gift for a teacher or neighbor - consumable, not expensive enough to warrant any strong obligations, and yet very personal; not something we just ran out and got.  In addition to the preserves, this year I was inspired by this post to try my hand with vanilla extract.  In May, I purchased a pound of organic vanilla beans and split them with a friend (I think they came out to about fifty cents a piece), and bought some vodka.  Then some more, then some more.  I filled up five quart jars with Fleischmann's Royal Vodka, chopped the ends off of eight beans (per jar), split them lengthwise, and put them in the jars.  We gave the jars a little tip or shake every day for a month, and then continued to do so every now and then as the thought occurred. I read you're supposed to put extract in amber jars but we didn't have any amber quart jars; we did keep them in a very dark pantry.  I also used a few beans here and there in some of our preserves and other recipes!

Day 1
1546  vanilla extract, day 1

After a few months, I decided I should try this vanilla, make sure it tastes like the store-bought vanilla (that's the standard, isn't it?).  I tried the store-bought vanilla - just a sip, almost choked!  So I figured if that's what I've been putting in my cookies all these years, I don't have a very high standard to meet!  Anyway, when we ran out of our store-bought vanilla, it had been the recommended six months of steeping, so we've been using the "homemade" stuff ever since.  Is it better?  I don't know, but I sure put a lot of thought into it.  I mean, of course it is! Tastes as great as ever.

I purchased two dozen two-ounce amber bottles from Specialty Bottle, and poured the liquid through a clean cloth to sift out the debris, and filled up my little brown bottles.  Now we have lots of little gifts to give!

By my calculations, this is Day 191. 

4131 vanilla extract, day... 191?

Thank goodness I do a little planning ahead every now and then, so I don't have to do everything at the last minute!


Rebekah said...

You are so inspiring! You have got me in the decorating mood! Lovely photos!

Nana said...

I'm so intrigued with the varied projects you tackle - none of the typical stuff! So, is the vanilla "done"? Exciting and very interesting!

Karen said...

Thank you both for your comments! The vanilla is "done" but I have more quarts than will fit in the 2-oz jars, so will continue to let some steep until needed!

Thimbleanna said...

That's awesome Karen! I've always wanted to try it, but never taken the time. Store bought vanilla is awful. I did a little smell test one day between store bought vanilla and the expensive vanilla and you wouldn't believe the difference -- the store bought stuff smells rancid (and it was new.) I've been told homemade is fresh and new like the expensive stuff. Have you seen the adorable free labels for homemade vanilla on the internet?

Miss Jean said...

I've been wanting to try this for some time but haven't found a place to purchase vanilla beans. Where did you get yours? Can you use just any vodka? Thanks!!

Sew Create It - Jane said...

Love that first picture! That vanilla looks yummy too!

Candace said...

Good for you, Karen! I am totally spoiled by it now! A friend of mine has been making and sending it to me for several years!