Every year I try to be more and more creative with the gifts I give to my clients. I like to give something in relation to a charity in addition to making something-I mean, how can you get a gift from a chef that doesn’t have to do with food….a revolution may occur.
So, last year it was an ornament designed by St.Jude patients and peppermint bark. And this year I wanted to give something they could feel good about, something their bellies would feel good about and, finally, something their kitchen would feel good about. So, what did I decide? I know the suspense is just killing you….. This year’s gift pack will include a donation to St.Jude Children’s Research Hospital from Drizzle Kitchen, an assortment of holiday cookies and a jar of homemade bourbon vanilla extract. So fun!
Making your own homemade vanilla is so incredibly easy, it lacks even the need for a recipe. It simply requires 2 ingredients. Yep, that’s what I said, two-dos-deux. That’s it! And it is such a lovely gift that I know your friends and family will love. The biggest challenge I had was finding food-safe containers to store the vanilla in. This is very important as you certainly don’t want to poison your recipients (well, maybe for some recipients that is the intent….so use whatever cheap plastic container you can find in that instance). Otherwise, I found luck with glass spice containers at any craft or container store. I found my cute little jars at World Market (I know!) and they were relatively inexpensive. Next, I purchased Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans from my absolutely FAVORITE spice shop- The Spice House-in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago or in Evanston (or online @ www.thespicehouse.com). Finally, I used a locally produced vodka as my base from Traverse City, Michigan (www.grandtraversedistillery.com).
Day One- Bottling of the Vanilla Extract
And here is the grand recipe for homemade bourbon vanilla extract. You need one vanilla bean for each 1/3 cup vodka you use (each of my jars held exactly 1/3 cup vodka which was perfect!). Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise to expose the inner bean flecks and then again in half through the middle if you need it to fit into a shorter jar. Place inside your container. Add the vodka. Seal up the container and place in a cool, damp place to steep for 4-6 weeks. Give it a slight shake every so often and you’ll see the color go from clear to a beautiful deep amber color. And voila! You have made your own spectacular vanilla extract. Merry merry, happy happy! Enjoy giving these little nuggets of vanilla love to anyone you deem worthy and I know it will put a smile on their face.
Day Three- Bottled, Tagged and Ready for Gift Delivery!
**If you would like to learn more about St.Jude Children’s Research Hospital or if you would like to make a donation please visit their webpage @ www.stjude.org and help bring a smile to a beautiful child’s face who is bravely battling cancer.