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Thread: Vanilla Extract gift -- how large a bottle?

  1. #1
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    Vanilla Extract gift -- how large a bottle?

    I have said I would make vamilla extract to go in a holiday baking basket for 10 teachers and need to order bottles. I use an 8 oz bottle myself. The better vanillas seem to come in 4 and 8 oz bottles, but the grocery store bottles are 1, 2 and 4 oz. I'm leaning towards the 4 oz. size. Anything smaller seems too small. I could do 8 oz, but is that overkill for anyone you don't know cooks and bakes a lot?

  2. #2
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    Hello Beth!

    I think 4 oz. is just the right size. It's going to be with other goodies right? Since it's homemade (aka artisan) vanilla, I think a smaller bottle would be fine.

    OT here, but do you notice much of a difference with your vanilla vs. store bought? I know CI did that article years ago about how people tended to prefer imitation vanilla in baked goods. I've always wanted to make it myself.
    Beth

  3. #3
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    Beth,

    I'm making vanilla for gifts this year also and I've settled on 4oz bottles. I think they're the perfect size. Unfortunately the bottles I LOVE only came in 8 oz, so I had to hunt down others.

    Are you gifting your vanilla alone or with something? I want to pair it with something, but my creative juices haven't produced anything that sounds quite right yet.
    Terri _A
    I'm anal retentive. I'm a workaholic. I have insomnia. And I'm a control freak. That's why I'm not married. Who could stand me?” -Madonna

    Read my ramblings about food and my nutty life on A Girl in the South!

  4. #4
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    beth23, I think the vanilla I make is lighter in color, but has great flavor. It's as good as the fancy brands at a fraction of the price. Since my older son is baking (made 10 Texas sheet cakes for the end of school last year and continues to make 1 or 2 at a time -- last wekk it was one for algerbra class "cookie day" and one for his lunch table) and I do things like bake 10-12 dozen cookies for school events -- did over 40 for the kids before a recent band competition, I really don't want to pay $12-20 a bottle. I wonder if some of the tste preferences are what folks are used to. My mom used an artificial or a blend when I was growing up for economy, but I switched to the real thing when I got out of school and on my own. I'm udes to that now. I even love the smell on my hands for a day or two after I handle the beans, so I'm pretty sure I'd prefer the true vanilla. It really doesn't cost a lot to try it and it requires almost no effort, so why not?

    Terri, yes, the vanilla will be in a basket or assortment of gifts with a holiday baking theme. Everyone contributes somemoney for the packaging - which can include baskets, boxes, a tray or platter, a cookie jar -- and their gift item. I'll bake, but I said I could do the vanilla in the cobalt bottles since we are going with a blue and silver scheme, both for winter holidays and school colors. From our first meeting, the team leader and I are guessing we don't have many bakers in the group. We are going to have a couple of cookie mix jars, chocolate dipped pretzels, a spatula, vanilla and whatever else folks come up with. I also offered to create some recipe cards or pages for a recipe binder if each person would send me some recipes, so we'll see if that takes off.

    For a solo gift, you could give the bottle of vanilla in a gift bag with one of those cookie mix jars that requires you to add vanilla. Tuck in a couple of other recipes where the vanilla could be used (hoiday sugar cookies, a creme brulee, some vanilla glazed nuts -- however fancy you think your recipients might like to go. Add a jar of vanilla sugar, a holiday spatula, some holiday napkins, some hot chocolate mix or tea or coffee if you want to take it further. Does that get any ideas flowing? Sometimes going and looking in stores can trigger an idea -- either with holiday items or pairing or the packaging itself may suggest something. Hope that helps.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terri_A View Post
    Beth,

    I'm making vanilla for gifts this year also and I've settled on 4oz bottles. I think they're the perfect size. Unfortunately the bottles I LOVE only came in 8 oz, so I had to hunt down others.

    Are you gifting your vanilla alone or with something? I want to pair it with something, but my creative juices haven't produced anything that sounds quite right yet.
    Hi, may I make a suggestion? You could make up the dry ingredients and put them in a nice container with the recipe and maybe a jar of applesauce tied with a pretty ribbon. The recipe does use a lot of vanilla. And the title just sounds so cozy to me.

    Mother's Applesauce Muffins

    4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 TB ground cinnamon
    1 TB ground allspice
    2 tsp baking soda
    1 cup butter, softened
    2 cups sugar
    2 eggs
    2 cups applesauce
    2 TB VANILLA EXTRACT
    1 cup raisins

    In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, allspice and baking soda; set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, applesauce and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in raisins. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or untill muffins test done. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack. Yield: 2 dozen

    Souce: Taste of Home 2/97

  6. #6
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    I'm also giving vanilla as gifts this year with a copy of Gale Gand's Vanilla and Chocolate cookbook. There are some great recipes in there, and I might add a bar of imported chocolate to complete the gift.

  7. #7
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    I think you just steep vanilla beans in vodka to make vanilla extract, but in case I am wrong could those of you who make it post exactly what you do to make it, including what brand of alcohol and how long it steeps, if it ever goes bad, etc? I am leery of messing it up (probably silly, I realize) and so I keep spending big bucks on the huge Penzey's bottle....

    Thanks! We are huge vanilla fiends here so it would be great if I could save money by making it.

    As to the OP, if you don't know they bake a lot, I think 4 oz is perfect. If you have anybody in your life you are particularly close to and you know they love to bake I would use an 8 oz bottle.

    Laura
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    Muffins are for people who don't have the 'nads to order cake for breakfast.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by islandgirl View Post
    I'm also giving vanilla as gifts this year with a copy of Gale Gand's Vanilla and Chocolate cookbook. There are some great recipes in there, and I might add a bar of imported chocolate to complete the gift.
    Agh! Another book to add to my xmas list!

    Laura
    -Laura

    Muffins are for people who don't have the 'nads to order cake for breakfast.
    --Seth, "Kitchen Confidential" (the show, not the book)

    www.thespicedlife.com/

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by islandgirl View Post
    I'm also giving vanilla as gifts this year with a copy of Gale Gand's Vanilla and Chocolate cookbook. There are some great recipes in there, and I might add a bar of imported chocolate to complete the gift.
    This is a brilliant idea!
    Beth

  10. #10
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    sorry, this is kind of sidetrack. I have just bought some vanilla beans and am thinking of making vanilla extract myself. Can I use the golden rum (from Bacardi)? I have had the bottle for a long time without a good recipe to use it..
    My mostly food related blog-Fresh From The Oven- http://novice-baker.blogspot.com

  11. #11
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    I like Watkins Original Vanilla, and it's as good (to my taste) as my expensive Williams-Sonoma brand, whatever that is. Watkins (check online & eBay) is $9.99 to $12.99 for an 11-ounce bottle. Love it!
    If you're afraid of butter, use cream. ~~ Julia Child

    As you cook, you enjoy omniscience about food that no amount of label reading can match. Having retaken control of the meal from the food scientists, you know exactly what is in it. (Unless you start w/cream of mushroom soup, in which case all bets are off.) To reclaim control over one's food, to take it back from industry & science, is no small thing; indeed, in our time, cooking from scratch qualifies as subversive. ~~ Michael Pollan

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by novice baker View Post
    sorry, this is kind of sidetrack. I have just bought some vanilla beans and am thinking of making vanilla extract myself. Can I use the golden rum (from Bacardi)? I have had the bottle for a long time without a good recipe to use it..

    Sure. It will carry some of the rum flavor as well as the vanilla. I made some with rum and some with brandy. I preferred the vodka and the brandy, but the rum goes well with fruit and chocolate flavors. I'm just not that keen on rum anymore. Seems like it was a college thing for me.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by testkitchen45 View Post
    I like Watkins Original Vanilla, and it's as good (to my taste) as my expensive Williams-Sonoma brand, whatever that is. Watkins (check online & eBay) is $9.99 to $12.99 for an 11-ounce bottle. Love it!
    I started to buy Watkins Original Vanilla at a crafts fair until I read the ingredients. It's got sweeteners, water flavors & coloring in it. They do sell a pure organic vanilla. Instead, I ordered vanilla beans, bought a fifth of vodka & mine has been brewing about 6 weeks. It smells wonderful, but is not quite as dark as the kind I buy. I'll let it go the two months that was recommended on Marthastewart.com.

    Ingredients:
    Water, corn syrup, propylene glycol, vanilla extract (alcohol, water, extractive of vanilla beans), alcohol (8.25%), artificial flavors, caramel color.

    *Contains some form of sugar (dextrose, corn syrup etc...)
    Dorothy aka Martha

    Somewhere over the rainbow...

  14. #14
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    I recently discovered vanilla bean paste at Surfas. (Neilsen-Massey)

    It is concentrated vanilla in a syrup consistency. I LOVE this stuff. It really seems to have a much more pronounced punch to it. I have seen it at Sur La Table as well.
    The best sound is that of someone laughing in their sleep.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beth View Post
    Sure. It will carry some of the rum flavor as well as the vanilla. I made some with rum and some with brandy. I preferred the vodka and the brandy, but the rum goes well with fruit and chocolate flavors. I'm just not that keen on rum anymore. Seems like it was a college thing for me.
    thanks Beth. I think I better use Vodka.
    My mostly food related blog-Fresh From The Oven- http://novice-baker.blogspot.com

  16. #16
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    If you're going to try it and have the rum, why not try at least a small bottle of it? Think about how much vanilla you use in most things -- 1 tsp in a recipe. I'm not sure you would notice rum through all the flavors of a finished product. I would notice it a bit when using it, and it could carry through on something simple or delicate -- say in flavoring whipped cream. I doubt you'd notice it or find it objectionable in any cookie or cake recipe that only uses 1tsp. Something like those muffins with 2T, yeah, you might notice a touch of rum between the aplesauce and the spices.

    When I did mine the first time, I had plenty of beans, so I did mostly vodka and tried the rum and brndy too.

  17. #17
    Just a heads up...they have the vanilla bean paste at Trader Joes too. I also love it.

  18. #18
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    Where do you get bottles for making these? And what about getting the beans in bulk? It sounds like such a wonderful gift to give and I've thought about making it but to find the bottles is a mystery to me.

  19. #19
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    Mine is brewing in the 1.75 liter bottles of vodka I bought. When it comes tmie to package and gift, I will put them in the 4 ox Boston round bottles from www.specialtybottle.com. I loved the French square bottle, but they no longer carry it and I couldn't find another source for it after a reasonable amount of searching.

    Specialty Bottle is a great source for various bottles -- the best pricing I have found for most of them and one of the fewer sources who sell bottles in quantities smaller than a case. You can buy a single bottle if that's all you want. I got my cobalt vanilla bottle for myself when I ordered new spice jars for the remodeled kitchen, so I've done singles, a dozen and a case of various things. If you search the vanilla extract/gift threads I think you'll find at least a couple of other soure ideas.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by ljt2r View Post
    I think you just steep vanilla beans in vodka to make vanilla extract, but in case I am wrong could those of you who make it post exactly what you do to make it, including what brand of alcohol and how long it steeps, if it ever goes bad, etc? I am leery of messing it up (probably silly, I realize) and so I keep spending big bucks on the huge Penzey's bottle....

    Thanks! We are huge vanilla fiends here so it would be great if I could save money by making it.

    As to the OP, if you don't know they bake a lot, I think 4 oz is perfect. If you have anybody in your life you are particularly close to and you know they love to bake I would use an 8 oz bottle.

    Laura
    Here is the recipe I use - have been making it for years. I always have about 2 quart jars/bottles steeping.

    Vanilla Cordial (extract)

    12 vanilla beans (or more)
    1 quart vodka
    1 cup sugar


    1. To make your own vanilla extract, cut the beans in half lengthwise, and with the point of a small knife scrape along the bean to get the seeds out.

    2. Place seeds in a jar and add 1 cup of sugar, then fill with vodka or some other kind of liquor.

    3. Shake the jar to start dissolving the sugar.

    4. Seal the bottle (I put a plastic baggie on the jar and then screw the lid on tightly), and set in a cool, dark place for four to six months, shaking the jar occasionally, until the flavor of the extract has mellowed. The clear vodka will turn a nice deep brown.

    5. When the extract is ready to be used, clean and sterilize several small bottles with screw-on lids and fill with the homemade extract. (I use a small plastic funnel to do this)

    6. I sometimes cut a vanilla bean in half and add it to the small bottle.


    Note: I use a mason or a mayonaisse jar and just cut up some of the beans and then leave the rest whole. That way the vanilla beans will not dry out and when you need a whole bean if a recipe calls for one, you have a nice soft pliable vanilla bean.

    I have my entire 1/4 pound of Tahitian vanilla beans in a quart jar. Half are cut, half are whole.

    You can use some of the scraped pods, dry them overnight and then add them to your sugar canister - yum.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by islandgirl View Post
    I'm also giving vanilla as gifts this year with a copy of Gale Gand's Vanilla and Chocolate cookbook. There are some great recipes in there, and I might add a bar of imported chocolate to complete the gift.

    Maybe I should forward this thread to some of my family. They all know I like to bake and cook, but it never seems to occur to them to do something like this.

    In the meantime, could you add me to your gift list?
    "Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside." --Mark Twain

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Judy/AZ View Post
    Here is the recipe I use - have been making it for years. I always have about 2 quart jars/bottles steeping.

    Vanilla Cordial (extract)

    12 vanilla beans (or more)
    1 quart vodka
    1 cup sugar


    1. To make your own vanilla extract, cut the beans in half lengthwise, and with the point of a small knife scrape along the bean to get the seeds out.

    2. Place seeds in a jar and add 1 cup of sugar, then fill with vodka or some other kind of liquor.

    3. Shake the jar to start dissolving the sugar.

    4. Seal the bottle (I put a plastic baggie on the jar and then screw the lid on tightly), and set in a cool, dark place for four to six months, shaking the jar occasionally, until the flavor of the extract has mellowed. The clear vodka will turn a nice deep brown.

    5. When the extract is ready to be used, clean and sterilize several small bottles with screw-on lids and fill with the homemade extract. (I use a small plastic funnel to do this)

    6. I sometimes cut a vanilla bean in half and add it to the small bottle.


    Note: I use a mason or a mayonaisse jar and just cut up some of the beans and then leave the rest whole. That way the vanilla beans will not dry out and when you need a whole bean if a recipe calls for one, you have a nice soft pliable vanilla bean.

    I have my entire 1/4 pound of Tahitian vanilla beans in a quart jar. Half are cut, half are whole.

    You can use some of the scraped pods, dry them overnight and then add them to your sugar canister - yum.
    Thanks! I would never have realized to add so much sugar. Does everyone do that? Also, is it necessary to use good vodka or will any old brand do?

    Laura
    -Laura

    Muffins are for people who don't have the 'nads to order cake for breakfast.
    --Seth, "Kitchen Confidential" (the show, not the book)

    www.thespicedlife.com/

  23. #23
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    I have never added sugar, don't think most add sugar, and don't want mine to have added sugar.

  24. #24
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    Laura, After reading tons of old threads, I finally took the plunge, and I have 3 bottles of vanilla brewing in the guest room closet right now. Here is what I did:

    I used McCormick vodka (size was 375 mls or "half pint") at about $5.75 per bottle. (The clerk said McCormick was their best seller).
    3 vanilla beans per bottle (lots of recipes said 2 beans per bottle, but I had plenty, and I wanted to be sure it worked!)

    Split the beans down the middle and open them up a bit. If they are very long, you may need to cut them in half. Open the bottle of vodka and drop them in. Replace the cap on the bottle. Store in a cool dark place for 1 month (or longer is OK, too). Turn occasionally.

    After 1 day, the bottles already had some color and definitely had a nice aroma. That's it!

    I ordered my beans from ebay (also after reading many threads where people did that and were satisfied). Here is the site, and I ordered the grade A bourbon beans. With shipping, they ended up being very reasonable....less than $1 per bean. The site had 100% positive reviews, and over 4,000 reviews!

    Bourbon Vanilla Beans

    Lots of folks just left the vanilla in the vodka bottle and put a homemade label on it for gifting, but you can certainly get a nice glass bottle if you prefer.

    Hope that helps! It really is that easy. Just DO IT!
    kathyb


    Less rhetoric, more cowbell!

  25. #25
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    I just checked on the two bottles I started Sunday. One is a definite iced tea color or slightly darker and the other is definitely a bit darker. I then topped off the working bottle in my cabinet, filled up my brew jar and checked on the bottle next to it. Between this project and my son's science project, my kitchen is takig on a different sort of persona right now.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beth View Post
    I then topped off the working bottle in my cabinet, filled up my brew jar and checked on the bottle next to it.
    Beth, what do you mean by this? I assume your "working bottle" is the one you are using in your baking now, but when you "top it off", what exactly are you adding to it? Just more beans? Or vanilla from another bottle you are making? And what is your "brew jar" and what did you fill it up with? More beans? More vodka? Both? (Just looking ahead to what I will need to be doing down the road....my bottles are only a few days old. )
    kathyb


    Less rhetoric, more cowbell!

  27. #27
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    Sorry, I guess that isnt' as clear as it seems when you are doing it. Yes, I keep an 8oz bottle in may cabinet with other baking supplies. That is my working bottle, an now that my son is baking and I am sometimes baking for a lot more kids, I'm amazed how fast I can go through it. I used to think an 8 oz bottle would last forever -- or at least longre than you'd want to admit it was on your shelf. Now, I fill it a few times a year?

    Anyway, I have 2 brewing bottles in another cabinet where they sit and just get better and better until I'm ready to use them. I'm not sure why I have 2, but it does help me make sure I have one that is at full strength if I am in a heavy use period.

    Topping off the working bottle means filling it from one of the brewing jars. Then I top off the brewing jar with more vodka. I add another vanilla bean when I have used a fair amount. I didn't this morning, but I only poured out about 5 ounces and all my beans went into the two large bottles I just started. I'll check them in a few days when I get the new beans and decide whether to add another. Generally, if I use haf the jar I'll add a bean.

    I just ordered a POUND of bourbon beans and 20 Tahitian. Anyone wanna sniff my mailbox in a couple of days?

  28. #28
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    Thanks Beth!

    And one more question for you....how do you store your beans until you are ready to use them? The instructions that came with mine said to shrink wrap them, but that sounds like a hassle to do every time I want to get one bean out, and I don't have a food saver.
    kathyb


    Less rhetoric, more cowbell!

  29. #29
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    You guys are trouble. I just ordered 1/2 lb from ebay. Obviously it won't be ready for gifts this Christmas but next year I'm all set.


    "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself" ~ George Bernard Shaw


  30. #30
    I started some vanilla a few weeks ago after reading a thread on egullet. I used a fifth of Smirnoff's and about 4 beans. I chopped the beans into pieces (about the size of cut green beans) and it's currently brewing in an old mason jar. It's finally starting to mellow out a bit and I think it'll be ready for my holiday baking. It smells *lovely*. I'm going to start a new jar as well as soon as I remember to buy some vodka.

    And apparently my cats are fond of vanilla. I first stored my extra beans just double wrapped in bags in the cabinet, but one of my kitties jumped up on the counter and fished it out when I left the door open by accident. So now they live in another old mason jar with a lid. They also ripped up the mailing bag that the ebay seller sent the beans in to shreds. Who knew?

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