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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Homemade Vanilla.. (and free labels)

If you have never tried homemade vanilla extract, you don't know what you are missing. If well-made (more on that later) it is fabulously better than any store bought (especially the imitation of course!) I made vanilla extract last year for the first time and perfected my technique. I made about 32 oz. this year for gift-giving to my co-workers and friends.

The most important things to know about making vanilla is the concentration (ratio of beans to alcohol) and the time needed for extraction. I used the information from here for the recipe.  It is important to remember that it cannot be called "extract" (by FDA designation) unless there is at least 0.8 oz of vanilla per cup of alcohol (you must use alcohol in order to extract the favor from the bean. But remember that the alcohol bakes off leaving just the flavor behind). I used 1 ounce of beans per cup of vodka, which is slightly more than the required amount.  I aged it for more than 6 months to extract all the vanilla flavor before decanting into bottles.
The very best instructions and information for making vanilla is found on the Vanilla Review blog, so be sure to check it out. I purchased my vanilla beans from Vanilla Products off ebay, just be sure to get Grade B (extract) beans. I tried Grade A, and they did not extract as well. The beans were soft, supple, with a wonderful fragrance, and easy to cut.
You might recognize these bottles, I ...ahem... "recycled" them from Cracker Barrel (they originally had syrup in them). Ask nicely and leave your waitress a generous tip! I ran them through the dishwasher, removed the labels (Goo Gone is your friend here) and then ran them through the dishwasher again.

I also purchased these 2 oz. Boston Round bottles from Amazon but had to use the CB bottles when I ran out of the purchased ones. They are slightly bigger than the CB bottle (2 oz instead of 1.5 oz), and need no prep before use (although I did run them through the dishwasher as well).
On to the labels. I designed these in Make-The-Cut and designed a non-personalized version for you as well. Even if you do not own a cutting machine, MTC is the easiest and most intuitive program for this kind of designing. Way, way easier than Adobe Illustrator. I cannot recommend it any higher. I am an affiliate so check out my link (see sidebar) if you want to try it. You can download it and try it for free to see how it works (It is fully functional other than it cuts a diagonal line though the cuts until your purchase it. You also cannot save to the different formats).
Here's a screen shot of the labels I designed for you. In case you don't have a cuttting machine, they are designed to be used with the Fiskars X-large Oval Punch.
In order to protect the label from dripping vanilla, I covered it with a glossy clear covering (The Duck brand that I found was clear and glossy. Clear Contact paper is matte and frosted, it will work but is not as professional looking).  The covering made them a bit thicker but I was able to punch them out without too much pressure.   I used my ATG gun to attach these to the bottles but any permanent adhesive will work.
You can see the clear covering in this photo. And you can download the non-personalized labels here for the next few days.
I also designed (in MTC again) a round gift tag. I have a non-personalized version for your use as well if you would like to download it (free until the end of the year)!  I drew in the holly and berries on mine but added a printed one for you. I found the holly image (free) here. I traced it in MTC to get solid colors.
Punch holes for the cord (I used a Fiskars hand punch that makes two holes but I can't find a link to it), attach with elastic cord...
or baker's twine (which is easier than the elastic cord).
Place in plastic bags (I used these and they fit perfectly) and tie with a festive yarn.        
  And you are all ready for gifting! 

(Although I have provided affiliate links for the supplies, I actually purchased most of my supplies locally at WalMart, Michaels or JoAnns. I did not receive any free supplies. Links are provided for those who cannot find them locally.)


Treasures by Tanya said...

when I tried to download the labels it says it's not available to me or has been removed :( is there any way I can still get it?

Nelda said...

Sorry about that. I did try testing the links but of course they worked for me! Not sure which label you want but let me repost the links here.
Vanilla: https://app.box.com/s/isr9z6pawacl0ta4eky1
Tags: https://app.box.com/s/k22ocf9o5cdvemj4bwnq

Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch Nelda, the new links worked for me!