Our DIY entry for the day comes from the phenomenal Magpie Paper Works. While you’ll need to get started on this project a little further in advance than most, you’re guaranteed to leave your guests with a distinctive favor they won’t soon forget!
Reminder: Our DIY Favor Contest is still open to submissions! Be sure to submit your crafty beauties by April 3rd.
Vanilla extract is such a wonderful wedding favor! It’s memorable, as sweet as you, and it will be cherished by your guests! It’s so easy & affordable to make at home, you’ll wonder why you ever bought any at the grocery store! All you need are vanilla beans, a bottle of your favorite spirit, and time. (Added bonus: your kitchen will smell amazing!)
Like true love, vanilla extract gets better with age. You’ll want to start this project at least three months before your wedding so that the beans have plenty of time to impart their flavor to the base. If you are able to start this project six to eight months before your wedding, your guests will be rewarded with divine vanilla extract unlike they have ever tasted – unbelievably rich, concentrated, and fragrant! Make sure to set aside a few for yourself.
Good vanilla extract is made from only two ingredients: beans & booze. Before you begin, you’ll want to order at least 1/4 Lb of bulk vanilla beans for every 15 2oz. favors you’d like to create. No need to splurge on the beans – Grade ‘B’ beans (sometimes known as chef’s quality) are more affordable than higher grades because they’re slightly less plump. They are perfect for making delicious extract!
You’ll also want to choose an appropriate alcohol base for your concoction. Good quality, mid-range hard spirits with a proof of at least 60 work best. Vodka & white rum produce a clean-tasting vanilla extract, while spiced rum and brandy impart a lovely flavor of their own.
1. Begin by slicing the vanilla beans lengthwise, from tip to tip. This opens up the bean so that the alcohol can absorb the flavor of the “caviar”. (These are the tiny seed-like flecks inside the bean.)
2. Cut each sliced bean in half across the middle.
3. Open the bottle of alcohol. To make room for the beans, pour approximately 1 C. into a mason jar or glass and set aside. Insert the beans into the 750ml bottle, one-by-one, until all are submerged beneath the surface. If any air remains at the top of the bottle, pour some of the reserved spirit back inside. (If any beans are left exposed to the air, undesirable mold may develop.)
4. Cap the bottle and give the concoction a few gentle shakes. The alcohol will begin to darken slightly as the oil and natural sugars from the bean begin to mingle. As the extract ages, it will become darker and darker until eventually it is nearly opaque. (The below image shows the difference between “just made” extract & 3-month aged extract.)
5. Now, the hardest part: waiting! Store the bottle in a cool, dark location like the back of a kitchen cupboard. (Basements are great vanilla-caves too.) Give the bottle a gentle shake once a week for the first month, and then every few weeks after that. No need to be precise – it’s just good to move the alcohol around the beans from time-to-time. After a few months, give the extract a sniff – you should start to notice the harsh alcohol scent being replaced with vanilla. The extract is ready to use when the harshness has disappeared & the vanilla smells “heady”. (The extract can be used before this time, if you would like to incorporate a bit of the alcohol’s notes. Spiced rum vanilla extract makes delicious baked goods!)
6. When you’re ready to bottle your favors, simply insert the funnel into the neck of each 2oz bottle & carefully fill, making sure to leave a bit of airspace at the top. Don’t throw the leftover bean pieces away! You can insert a small piece of each bean in the bottles for a gourmet touch. You can also create your own vanilla sugar by drying the leftover beans & placing them into an airtight jar with white sugar. Use this sugar to sweeten tea or baked goods!
7. After the bottles are capped tightly, wind a 7″ – 10″ length of string around each neck & tie a sweet bow or knot. Red & white striped bakers twine is particularly cute! The string not only gives your favors a complete look, it also catches any future drips that may occur as your guests use the extract.
8. Download the Vanilla Extract Labels and print onto 8.5″ x 11″ label paper. Use a 1.5″ round punch to cut out the circles & then carefully apply a sticker to each bottle.
9. Get hitched, share your vanilla extract favors and live happily ever after!
– 1/4 Lb vanilla beans (approximately 25-30 individual beans – they can be purchased in bulk online for much, much cheaper than you’ll find in grocery stores. Our beans came from Saffron Vanilla Imports).
– 1 750 ml bottle of your favorite spirit (Rum, Vodka, Brandy, etc.)
– 15 2oz. amber bottles (we bought a case from SKS Bottle, or other small, dark glass containers)
– 15 7″ – 10″ lengths of your favorite string, twine, or yarn
– Modern Vanilla Labels (printable file here)
– Full page 8.5″ x 11″ label paper
– scissors or 1.5″ round punch
– sharp knife & cutting board
– narrow-neck funnel