Over the summer I agreed to be in a gift exchange with 20 other artists, many who I've known since college. Luckily in August I came up with a plan and decided what to make... November is too crazy for me to wait for the last minute. I decided to make homemade vanilla, I've heard how easy it is... and seriously, it was.
I went and bought a good big bottle of vodka, drained a bit off, and placed 15 vanilla beans I got from our local gourmet and regional foods distributor in it. Then placed it in a dark place, and tried to remember to gently shake it every so often. Et voila, 3 months later, pure vanilla extract. There are many different recipes out there, but this is all I did, and it came out perfectly (and quite strong!) I even got brave and kept the same beans and covered them with a new bottle of vodka. I'm hoping for a second batch later in the winter. I'll let you know how that goes.... worst case scenario I end up with a bottle of vanilla flavored vodka, which ain't that bad! The labels were printed on ironed brown craft paper, cut them out, and then fed through my girl's sticker machine.
When I decanted the vanilla and filled the bottles I decided I just HAD to make some caramels to go along with them. We made over 200, and it took us HOURS to roll them up when they cooled. I felt a bit like Lucy! By the end my whole family decided that what they really are is the BEST homemade tootsie rolls evah. If you ever happen to find yourself with extra sugar, heavy cream, butter and chocolate, you really should made them too!