vanilla love sent snail mail

Each year, I work on a different homemade project to send out to family and friends for the holidays.  I personally love receiving things that have been handcrafted (and I assume others do too), but this is also admittedly a way of sending presents to more than just a couple people without spending too much money.  (ie cheaper and more special than store-bought presents!)  Do I usually end up spending more money than anticipated?  Yes.  If not in the making of the project, then the shipping always gets ya (tins of Christmas cookies made for the heaviest packages ever!!)  So this year I wanted to go for something useful but pretty and on the small/light side too...

Enter homemade vanilla!  I'd been seeing it around on different blogs for some time now, but when Food52 tweeted the link to this blog (and a fellow Blogspot blogger too!), I was really inspired!  Good visuals, super clear instructions-- even links to where the author bought her bottles and sealing wax!  You guys:  homemade vanilla is SOOOO easy to make...

It really is this easy:

1. Order corked bottles, vanilla (I got wayyy more than I needed for a great price from this Ebay seller), sealing wax, alcohol (I used aged rum, but vodka or bourbon works too), cute bakery string (local craft store), and whatever paper or tag you want to use to label it.  I also gathered some twine to tie the labels onto each bottle.  I was thinking it would also be cool to include cinnamon sticks and make Mexican vanilla extract!  I was able to make about 25 tall, 4 oz bottles of vanilla for $5 each!  

2. I put three vanilla beans in each bottle.  Next, funnel the rum into each bottle (I knew there was a reason I had a tiny funnel lying around!).  Seal each bottle tightly with the cork.  Now, wrap the bakery string around the cork and slightly onto the top of the bottle.   Tape the end of the string to the bottle (just for now-- you'll see).

3.  Heat the sealing wax beads (I got gold but it comes in different colors) by creating a double boiler effect with a pot of boiling water and an aluminum can about 1/3 of the way filled with the beads.  Once the beads melt smoothly into a liquid, dip each cork completely into the wax.  The idea is that the wax will cat the bakery string and the baker can pull the string to unseal the bottle when they're ready for use.  After you dip, you can untape the string from the bottle.

4. Write out tags and attached them to each bottle with twine.  Since the vanilla should steep for a good three months to really become an extract (unless you just want some delicious vanilla-infused rum), I wrote on my tags "vanilla extra handmade in Austin, TX...ready in March 2013".  

(I know, I know... a Christmas gift ready in March.  What can I say?  It's the gift that just keeps on giving!)