Thursday, December 11, 2008
Easy to Make Christmas Gifts: Vanilla Extract and Rosemary Oil
I found these little jugs in a consignment shop and bought all 17 of them for $3. As it happened, I had just the use for them and had been looking for little bottles to use for a Christmas gift project I had in mind. After hunting down corks at a craft store many miles away, and ordering vanilla beans online from even further away, I was ready.
What was I making? The first project was vanilla extract. I made it years ago and had forgotten about it until recently. The process is simple: sterilize some bottles or jars, add a vanilla bean or two depending on the size of the bottle (I used one bean per bottle, cut into 3 small pieces). More beans means stronger vanilla, of course. Fill the bottle with your choice of vodka, bourbon or rum. Cork or cap and put aside to steep. In about a month, your vanilla is ready to use.
You can add more alcohol as you use the vanilla; it will keep making extract for quite a while. The color will darken as the rich vanilla flavor seeps into the alcohol. You can use it just as you would any vanilla extract in baking.
Project 2 is Rosemary Oil. This is a lovely flavor for cooking or to use as a dipping oil. To me, rosemary has a scent almost like pine, and I like to use it in green beans, venison and herb biscuits. Rosemary oil is almost as simple to make as the vanilla extract. All you need is clean bottles, good quality olive oil, and sprigs of rosemary.
The one important thing to remember is to dry the rosemary first. If you don't, it will turn your oil cloudy (voice of experience speaking here).
Put a few sprigs into the bottle, fill with oil, cork or cap and let it sit for a while before you use it. Mine is about 2 weeks old and still needs a little more time before I use it. The finished product:
Some people recommend removing the rosemary after your oil has the desired strength. I like the way it looks, and the bottles are so small that the oil won't last long anyway once it's put to use.
That's it--two simple gifts that are easy to make, yet look so pretty and are appreciated by anyone who cooks.