More on Vanilla Beans

I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago about making vanilla. So now what? Well, you either bottle it up and sell it or give it as gifts or use it yourself. I found a nice little green glass flip-top bottle for my own use.DSCN6553

I also packaged vanilla to sell at my church’s Christmas Marketplace and to give as Christmas gifts. There are lots of places to buy glass bottles online. The cheapest place we found was SKS. Two friends and I went in together and split shipping to cut costs. One friend and I bought clear glass 4 ounce bottles and another bought 2 ounce bottles. They also sell amber glass, which is supposedly better for vanilla, because it keeps the light out, but I keep my vanilla in my pantry that’s dark, so I think the clear glass is fine. I really liked the square cut bottles, but they were too expensive to be able to make a profit on my vanilla. I found my personal bottle at TJ Maxx, but I also found several on Amazon I liked as well. I highlighted some in my Amazon Store, along with the best price on Vanilla beans.

Once you’ve chosen your containers for the finished vanilla and your vanilla’s really done, it’s time to package it. There’s an online debate about straining or not straining before you package. I strained mine that I was going to sell or give, because I thought it was prettier to have the clear, amber without black specks floating around. Personally, for my own vanilla, I’ll probably leave them in. It will only add to the essence of the vanilla. I put a coffee filter in my fine mesh strainer and poured the vanilla through it into a large glass measuring cup. At this point, your kitchen will smell amazing! Stop for a moment and take in the smell. Heavenly! After that, I used my tiny metal funnel to carefully pour the vanilla into my cute little jars. Once they were full, I screwed the caps on tightly and wiped the outside with a damp dishcloth to make sure nothing was sticky.

So now the vanilla is bottled, time to clean up that coffee filter full of damp vanilla beans, right? Wrong! I mean, yes, let’s clean it up, but don’t throw them away. You have a couple of options at this point. First, you could start more vanilla. Because these beans have been used, the next batch with these beans may take longer to extract the flavor. Or you could use more beans per cup of vodka. I cut a few of the beans in fourths and put a piece in each of the jars of vanilla for a decoration. You could also make vanilla syrup for coffee. I don’t drink coffee, so I didn’t, but I found this recipe for vanilla syrup on this very beautiful blog. Here is a link to her pictures of both vanilla sugar and vanilla syrup bottled up with lovely labels. Sigh. Don’t drool too hard at the bottom of her page, when she shows pictures of her “baking center.” It’s spectacular. Nothing in my life looks like that. Nothing. But that’s why my blog’s never picture perfect…

Another option is to make vanilla sugar or powdered sugar. Come to find out, these are considered luxury items. William Sonoma sells 8.5 ounces of vanilla sugar for $18.95 online.  Seriously. As you can see, you can totally do this on the cheap and give as gifts. Tres chic. Tres cheap.

I gently dried the vanilla beans on a paper towel, then placed some buried in the middle of a large glass container full of white sugar. I placed some more in another glass container full of powdered sugar, then hid both jars away in my dark pantry. The next day, I made sure to shake the two jars to keep the sugar from clumping up. The beans were still damp and you know how sugar gets all clumpy when it gets damp. After that, I shook the jars and made sure the beans were still totally covered by the sugar, about once a week. Within a couple of weeks, I pulled them out and started to use them.  I used my vanilla sugars in baking over the Christmas holidays. It added an extra vanilla flavor, plus the tiny black flecks made it look expensive:). I’ve read people use it in coffee, on oatmeal, all kinds of stuff.

I made some AMAZING vanilla scones, using the vanilla granulated sugar in the scones and using the powdered sugar to make the glaze. Plus I soaked one of the remaining beans in the milk before I made the scones, and scraped out some of the seeds. ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS.

So now you have amazing vanilla and vanilla sugar in adorable jars for giving. Let’s label it! This turned out to be the hardest part of the entire project. Let me “larn” you, so you don’t have to go through the agony of defeat as I did. I saw all kinds of cute labels I wanted to try. My favorite were these–beautiful calligraphy printed on muslin and then attached to the jars. I found some very reasonably priced material, again, splitting it with a friend. It wasn’t muslin, cause I couldn’t find any. Anyway, I printed it according to the directions, but the weave of my material was looser than the muslin and too hard to read, so I abandoned that. My poor friend just about tore up her printer trying to get it to work. Sigh. Next, a trip to Staples for peel off labels. There were two shapes, 2 inch rounds and 8×11 sheets. I really wanted the 2 inch rounds. Avery has a great website that has online programs (free!) that let you design your own labels for stuff. I had great fun making about 10 different labels for vanilla and also for sugar scrubs (that’s another post). Then came the printing. Those round labels nearly drove me crazy. The Avery program will allow you to print one label at a time, and you can adjust the printing slightly, up down or sideways if the label isn’t lining up correctly. The package had 120 labels in it. I used all of them and only got maybe 20 acceptable labels. Maybe. So, you can try if you want to, but it was an awful experience.

I had much more success with the 8×11 sheets. I used the Avery program, but made small labels and repeated the design over and over, so I got 2 rows of 4 or 5 labels on each sheet. I used my paper-cutter to cut them out. Perfect. Every time.

So here’s my finished project, with a little “Merry Christmas” card I made. It was a fun project (except the labels), and I may do it again this year. If you try this let me know! I’d love to hear how yours comes out!

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