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Food gifts anyone can DIY: Vanilla extract & vanilla sugar

Posted by Melissa Massello  October 24, 2012 12:00 PM

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Tara Bellucci

Swappers bring vanilla extract and vanilla sugar to the Boston Food Swap.

Vanilla. It's the world's most popular flavor. If you're looking for a homemade hostess or holiday gift, here are two super simple DIYs that anyone can do and everyone will like.

Nearly every baking recipe calls for vanilla extract, and nearly everyone (no matter how infrequently they bake) has a little bottle in their pantry. Those little bottles don't come cheap, and you can actually make your own extract for pennies per ounce. It's as easy as adding beans to booze. Really! If you have a couple minutes, you can have homemade vanilla extract for you and everyone on your gift list this year.

All you need is cheap vodka and whole vanilla beans. The DIY isn't cost-effective if you end up spending $8 per bean at the grocery store: check restaurant supply stores, international markets, or online. You can get a pound of vanilla pods for around $30 on Amazon, averaging about $1 for 2 beans. Keep your extras in the freezer and they'll last forever.

To make the extract, just use a paring knife to split the vanilla down the center, and add 2 to 3 beans per 8 ounces of vodka. Store in a cool, dark place for 6-8 weeks, shaking occasionally, and that's it! If you're short on space, make one large batch directly in the vodka bottle, and then when it's done, portion in smaller containers for gifts.

If you can believe it, vanilla sugar is even easier than extract. When you scrape the vanilla seeds from the inside of the pod for baking recipes, save the used pods to make vanilla sugar. Pop as many of those old pods as you want into a container of granulated sugar. After a few days, it will start to take on flavor from the pods. A week or so is usually long enough to infuse the sugar. Use as you would regular sugar in recipes, coffee, or tea for an additional vanilla touch. Scoop into jars and decorate as gifts. Since it takes very little time making them, get creative with packaging for something really special.

Not only are vanilla extract and vanilla sugar easy to make, they basically replenish themselves. No need to replace all of the pods right away; top off bottles with more vodka and jars with more sugar, and swap in a fresh pod or two each time.

Have you made your own extract or flavored sugar before? Share your ideas with us by tweeting with hashtag #DIYBoston.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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