Last year, my friend and kirtsy partner Laurie, told me all about how she made vanilla extract as gifts for friends and neighbors. I thought: brilliant! and quickly made a note to try it out in 2008. Then. I got an email from Laura yesterday, (she’s another friend and kirtsy partner). Turns out she spent Saturday night with her lady friends making vanilla extract, vanilla sugar and vanilla almonds. Delish. Not only that, she also emailed full photo instructions, including sources. Score!

Which is a sign of course: I am meant to make vanilla-y things this year. And I’ll share the instructions here. In case you’d like to join me. I should note. Laura was quick to point out that the mastermind behind this project is Lisa of Laundry Tree. Thank you Lisa! And now, notes and recipes in Lisa’s words:

Vanilla Extract Recipe
We found great recipes at both Instructables and Andrea’s Recipes. Some recipes call for Everclear. We used Svedka and Smirnoff vodkas.

16-ounce jar or bottle with tight-fitting lid
16 ounces vodka, top-shelf brands not required
6 vanilla beans

Cut the six vanilla beans in half lengthwise, leaving about 1 inch connected at one end. Put the beans into the jar and pour in the 16 ounces of vodka. Cover tightly and store in a cool, dark place for about 8 weeks. Give it a gentle shake about once a week.

Vanilla Sugar Recipe
From Food Network. We used spent beans from making vanilla. Dry them a couple of days before adding them to the sugar.

1 vanilla bean, whole or scraped
2 cups granulated sugar

If vanilla bean is whole, slice down side of bean with back of knife and scrape seeds into airtight container with the sugar. Bury bean in sugar and seal tightly with lid. Let sit for 1 to 2 weeks. Use as you would regular, granulated sugar.

Spiced Nuts Recipe
From We substituted vanilla for water. Also, we recommend only 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice — 1 tbsp. is too much).

1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 tsp. water
4 c. mixed nuts (or all pecans)
1 c. sugar
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

Combine egg white and water, add nuts and toss to coat. Combine sugar, pumpkin spice. Toss in mixture. Place in single layer on slightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and cool on wax paper and break up large clusters.

Design Mom Note: It seems to me, that any one of these items — the sugar, the vanilla, the almonds — would make a lovely singular gift. But in Houston, it’s genetically impossible not to be over-the-top generous. So these ladies packaged up all 3 items in one bag — and threw in some homemade lip balm for good measure. (I’m exhausted just typing it.) To my friends and neighbors, if I manage to get some vanilla made, please don’t be offended if it’s vanilla and vanilla only. : )

Edit: It gets even better! Lisa just sent me the pdf links where you can download the beautiful labels she designed. Is she the bestest friend ever or what?!:
Vanilla Extract Label
Almond Label
Sugar Label

Links to Other Sources
Vanilla beans
Amber bottles
Gusseted poly bags (outer)
Reclosable bags (inner)
Brown satin ribbon (outer):
Pink ribbon from Hobby Lobby