Homemade Vanilla Extract and Honey Butter

holiday-food-festIt’s Thursday, so it is Holiday Food Fest time! This week’s host is Phoebe of Cents to get Debt Free.  The theme is Edible Gifts with gift wrapping  ideas included. Phoebe’s been busy and has some great gift ideas to share, and so have a lot of other folks. So you won’t want to miss checking out everyone’s ideas. Plus, the giveaway this week is an EatSmart Precision Pro digital scale—that will be a nice price for a lucky someone! Next week is Thanksgiving, so Holiday Food Fest will be on a brief hiatus, but it picks up again the following Thursday with the delightful Holiday Food Fest hostess/originator herself, Amy, of Simply Sugar & Gluten Free. Amy’s theme will be Holiday Cocktails, Mocktails, and Appetizers. That’s quite an all-inclusive category! So please join in or at least check out all the entries.

One gift I like to make is homemade vanilla extract. Homemade vanilla is so easy to make and wonderful. It’s also very economical for the avid cook. It’s a favorite of my friends and family. I usually give my homemade vanilla extract every 2 years, because most folks don’t go through a bottle this size in a year’s time.

For gift wrapping, attach your label and a decorative bow/ribbon. “Curly” ribbon is great for the neck of the bottle. You can easily attach a little gift tag. Gift tags are easy to make from old Christmas cards by cutting out an image that you like that is the right size for the gift, punching a hole at the top (in a place that won’t ruin the image), and then running the curling ribbon through the hole before you tie and curl the ribbon with scissors.

Edible Christmas Gifts

Homemade Vanilla Extract
(Click here for a print version of this and the next recipe.)

Pint of vodka (or rum, or another liquor of your choice; some folks like brandy and cognac, but I prefer the more neutral-flavored vodka)

Two vanilla beans, cut as directed below

Soak label off vodka bottle by submerging bottle in water (up to top of label) for a few hours.

Either cut vanilla beans into 1-inch pieces or split/cut in the middle using a knife, but do NOT cut all the way through so that the bean separates into two pieces. See photo for both methods. I prefer the splitting method because I think the beans looks nicer in the bottle this way.

Edible Christmas Gifts

Place vanilla beans in bottle of vodka. Place in a dark place where temperature doesn’t fluctuate, like cabinet away from stove. Now is an ideal time to make vanilla extract for gifts. It will take a month to 6 weeks for the vanilla to be extracted into the vodka, but you can actually give it as a present before then. Even if you drag your feet a little in your vanilla making, it will be okay. It’s not likely that the recipients will immediately start baking the minute they receive your gift.

Shirley’s Notes: I don’t usually buy my vanilla beans from the grocery store because they are not usually high quality at my grocery store and they are typically more costly. Madagascar vanilla beans are popular. I’ve usually bought the Tahitian ones though (that actually come from Papua New Guinea now it seems). I’ve gotten my vanilla beans through The Spice House or Penzey’s, but you can also buy vanilla beans through Amazon. The Tahitian ones are shown here. I paid $3.80 for a pint of vodka and $6.60 for two vanilla beans. You can save money by buying a large bottle of vodka, using recycled bottles, and ordering your vanilla beans online in larger quantities. Just be sure if using recycled bottles that they allow for easy pouring, are a similar size to pints, and that they don’t retain a strong smell (i.e., don’t use a jar that formerly contained pizza sauce). I read that unless you use six vanilla beans per cup of alcohol, you are making vanilla-flavored alcohol. Well, I’ve been using this ratio for years and have been happy with the results. I just made the bottle of vanilla extract shown so no extraction has taken place yet. In a very short time, the extraction process will be evident as the vodka begins to turn amber.

Edible Christmas Gifts

Because we keep bees and they make the world’s best honey, I’m always looking for great ways to use honey in cooking or as gifts. Honey butter is one of those little niceties that some restaurants offer with their breads. It’s so easy to make and is really appreciated by the recipients. It’s a great accompaniment to a loaf of homemade bread or some homemade rolls/muffins.

You will be tempted to make a lot, but a little goes a long way. The jars shown are bouillon jars I’ve recycled. Smaller jars would be even better. The very small jars that jams and jellies sometimes come in would be perfect, especially to go with a bread gift.  The following recipe produces just the right amount of honey butter to fill one of the bouillon jars.

Edible Christmas Gifts

Honey Butter

1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) of butter, softened
¼ cup honey (or less, to taste)

Place softened butter in a deep bowl. Cream butter with your mixer or a wooden spoon. Gradually add honey and mix using a low speed if using a mixer. Spoon into the jar. You can “wrap” now and then refrigerate or wait until right before gifting if you are worried about your wrapping getting disturbed or damp in the refrigerator. I place a nice gift label on the lid and just tie a bow around the lid. The label shown in the photo was actually part of a book of stamps. I always save any parts I can turn into labels or stickers. I just hate to waste things. Cost wise, this gift can be very reasonable. The butter cost me about 75 cents and, of course, the honey was free (setting aside our costs for maintaining the bees).

Shirley’s Notes: I made a sample batch using coconut oil instead of butter and I liked it, but it does have a pronounced coconut flavor.

Homemade goodies like these are perfect for assembling together in baskets, too. I actually had more planned to share, but we had a thunderstorm today, lost power, and I lost my file, so I promise to give you some more easy gift ideas soon. Have fun with your gift making!

Edible Christmas Gifts

Homemade Honey Butter and Vanilla Extract Ready to Give

Last, don’t forget … the Thanksgiving Progressive Dinner Party is still going on. Today’s posts are recipes for side dishes. Diane of The Whole Gang dished up Stuffing with Pancetta Sage Sausage … oh my. For another stuffing option, check out Stephanie’s (A Year of Slow Cooking) Corn Bread Slow Cooker Stuffing. Who doesn’t like cornbread? And made in the slow cooker? The best. You really can’t go wrong with either of those stuffing recipes. Just go take a look at them—they make you want Thanksgiving dinner right now! Ali shared a beautiful Pear Pomegranate Salad with Orange Vinaigrette, yet another recipe in our Progressive Dinner that features arils, more commonly known as pomegranate seeds. I can only imagine the amazing burst of flavors. Incidentally, November is national pomegranate month. Finally, I can’t wait to see what Shauna shares over at her blog, Gluten-Free Girl! Tomorrow will be the wrap up—desserts! Stop by to see what Karen of Cook4Seasons, Jean of Gluten-Free Organics and More, and Ali of The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen will be serving.

Not just gf, but gfe!

This post is also linked to Frugal Fridays, Friday Foodie Fix–Honey, Gluten-Free Holiday: Edible Gifts, and Whole Food Fridays.

Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: This post may contain one or more affiliate links. If you purchase through them, your cost will always be the same, but I will receive a small commission. Thanks for the support! Read the full disclaimer here.


57 Responses to “Homemade Vanilla Extract and Honey Butter”

  1. Lauren on November 20th, 2009 12:55 am

    Very Pretty! Vanilla looks like such a fun thing to make! And a great gift – especially if they’re big cooks =D. The honey butter, well that just looks delicious.

    • Shirley on November 21st, 2009 8:33 am

      Hi, Lauren–Vanilla extract is incredibly easy to make. In just a short amount of “prep” time and with relatively little expense, you can have several beautiful gifts. Definitely for cooks though. ;-) Honey butter is a yummy thing and such a special treat. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it years earlier (I’ve only been making that since last year).

      Thanks and have a great weekend!


  2. Pam on November 20th, 2009 9:21 am

    Beautiful gifts and oh SO yummy!


    • Shirley on November 21st, 2009 8:38 am

      Hey Pam!–Thank you. :-) Yes, yummy and that other important factor here at gfe—gluten free and easy! ;-)


  3. SnoWhite on November 20th, 2009 10:26 am

    that is a wonderful gift idea… especially for people with allergies! It’s easy to see these are safe gifts for many people who have food allergies!!

    • Shirley on November 21st, 2009 8:41 am

      Hi SnoWhite–Great to see you again, and thank you! There really are so many easy ideas that can work well for folks with food intolerances/allergies. Once you think of them, you wonder why you didn’t think of them earlier. ;-) Often we just need to think more about the basics. :-) BTW, the vanilla extract can even be made using glycerin for folks who don’t use any alcohol products.


  4. Phoebe @ Cents to Get Debt Free on November 20th, 2009 1:15 pm

    I always make honey butter, but had never thought to give it as a gift! That would be perfect rounded out with a biscuit mix or something.

    Ooh, and the vanilla–I bought my beans, but hadn’t had a chance to get the vodka. Thanks for the reminder. :)

    • Shirley on November 21st, 2009 8:46 am

      Hi, Phoebe–Welcome to gfe! Thanks so much for hosting this week’s Holiday Food Fest! You made some beautiful and very economical gift packages. :-) I only made it through part of the entries … need to check back. I love seeing all the different ideas!

      Yes, the honey butter would be great with a biscuit mix or similar. I’m jealous that you have your beans … I need to get some more immediately. Hey, since I’ve got the vodka … we should get together and have a vanilla making party. ;-) LOL It’s so easy we could spend almost all our time chatting and getting to know each other. ;-)


  5. The Diva on a Diet on November 20th, 2009 2:10 pm

    Shirley, I am in awe of your homemade vanilla extract! What a marvelous idea!!! The honey butter sounds amazing too. Thanks so much for giving me some great ideas for Diva-made gifts this year. :)

    • Shirley on November 21st, 2009 8:50 am

      Hi there, Diva!–Aw, thanks! But, I tell you it’s so easy. Can make you look like the best gift giver ever though. You can fancy up those bottles/packaging as much as you like … I’m envisioning a unique Diva label on yours! ;-) Fun.

      Honey butter is such a delightful thing and so easy to make.

      Hope you wow your friends and family with your gfe-inspired Diva-made gifts!


  6. Gluten FREE foods ROCK on November 20th, 2009 8:44 pm

    Great idea

    • Shirley on November 21st, 2009 8:54 am

      Hey, Gluten FREE foods ROCK–Welcome to gfe! Thank you! Love your name … with the emphasis on FREE and ROCK. :-) Must go check out your blog … always love meeting new gf bloggers … we tend to be great folks. ;-)


  7. Gudrun on November 21st, 2009 12:46 pm

    the honey butter sounds great! Since I am such a new bee keeper, I only have a little honey I have harvested, so I am not even ready to give that as gifts. Hopefully next year, since I added another hive, I will have more honey to share. And making honey butter sounds like such a great idea. Including a recipe for cornbread would make a nice gift (GF of course!)

    • Shirley on November 21st, 2009 7:58 pm

      Hi Gudrun–Yes, of course, it takes some time to build up your hives and get a good honey yield. And, still then that can be unpredictable. This was the best year for us for our one hive here, but not as good a year for the hives that Mr. GFE does with his mom on her farm. Woohoo on getting another hive though! I do think sharing our bees’ wonderful honey is as rewarding and as enjoyable as it is eating it ourselves. Start collecting small jars for when you can share. (I’m always saving jars myself.) Oh, yes, that would be a great gift idea—thanks! I even have a great cornbread here at gfe that would work—no flour needed at all, just cornmeal and a few other ingredients.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! I hope you keep getting lots of entries for your kitchen gadget giveaway—what fun and such terrific tools for the lucky winner. :-)


  8. Alta on November 21st, 2009 10:59 pm

    You keep bees? How cool. I love that honey butter. And keeping boullion jars is an excellent idea. Great gift ideas.

    • Shirley on November 22nd, 2009 2:56 pm

      Hi Alta–Yes, beekeeping is a team effort here. Mr. GFE does all the outside work and dons the suit. ;-) (Occasionally, Son helps hubby, too, when he’s home.) We do the bottling together, I do all the baking/cooking and any mailing of honey to friends. Bees are valuable, amazing creatures! :-)

      The honey butter is yummy. I am always saving jars. Bouillon jars are a pretty good size. (Usually, they have nicely colored lids, too—which can work well with gift labels, etc.) I first tried filling a Nutella jar with honey butter and that’s way too much honey butter to have to make! LOL I’m sure it would go as quickly as the Nutella that was in it before though. ;-)


  9. Brian on November 22nd, 2009 2:52 am

    MMMM… You had me at honey butter. I think I’m going to give a little bit of my homemade extract away this Christmas also. I like your idea of giving away the newly started bottle of vanilla.

    • Shirley on November 22nd, 2009 3:27 pm

      Hello there, Brian :-) –LOL I know what you mean … honey butter is just delightful. Now whoever gets your homemade vanilla extract will be fortunate indeed. I remember you watching and waiting for the extraction process to be complete. ;-) A gift that keeps on giving, too. Every time someone bakes they think of the kind person who gave them the wonderful vanilla. :-)


  10. Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free on November 22nd, 2009 11:12 am

    Love this, Shirley. What great ideas and so time-practical! I get my vanilla beans from The Organic Vanilla Bean Company. I got 20 beans for $12. 10 Tahitian and 10 bourbon – and the quality is fantastic.

    • Shirley on November 22nd, 2009 3:31 pm

      Hi Amy–Thanks so much! I got so excited about your high quality, economical, and organic supplier of vanilla beans (both Tahitian and bourbon—cool!) and went off to order and they are completely out of stock of every single type of bean they sell per their site. Although they do state that they restock often and advise customers to keep checking back. You can be sure I will, but wow, huh? Everyone must be making vanilla extract and other goodies using vanilla beans this holiday season!


  11. Chaya on November 26th, 2009 1:29 pm

    This is a wonderful idea and a pretty gift. You accomplish so much. It is impressive.

    • Shirley on November 27th, 2009 1:25 am

      Thanks, Chaya! Hopefully, I’ll have some more food-related gift ideas up soon. BTW, the vanilla is already such a lovely amber color. I like peeking in on it now and then. ;-)


  12. vickie on December 10th, 2009 11:42 pm

    sounds like some very good gifts- I need to try the vanilla extract that would be great to make.

    • Shirley on December 11th, 2009 12:18 am

      Hi vickie–Thanks! Welcome to gfe! :-) Vanilla extract is a very well-received gift and easy to make. Even though it takes several weeks before it reaches its full flavor (and we’re not that far away from holiday gift giving), it can still be used right away. It will just improve daily. I shake my bottles occasionally to speed up the process a bit. ;-)

      Thanks so much for stopping by! Off to see what you have shared at your blog …


  13. Seth on January 19th, 2010 12:35 am

    To be honest, that is not enough vanilla beans for my taste. I made it with 3 vanilla beans (cut in half twice – once lengthwise once widthwise) per half cup of vodka, then I let it steep for over 2 months shaking it daily.

    • Shirley on January 19th, 2010 7:50 am

      Hi Seth–Welcome to gfe! I appreciate your opinion. I know some will certainly agree with you. It is a personal preference for some for sure. I started using my vanilla extract as I made it about a month later. It had turned a lovely amber by then. Now it’s just beautiful and flavorful in my baking recipes. It’s possible that different vanilla beans can be extracted more quickly and yield better vanilla, too. Anyway, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I’m sure some gfe readers will like your ratio of vanilla beans to vodka better. :-)

      Happy baking!


  14. Debra on May 4th, 2010 4:47 pm

    I will have to add honey butter to my list of “gifts” to make this year. I just started making vanilla extract, but I also use more beans. After reading loads and loads of variations of vanilla extract recipes, I have found out to make a true extract you need a minimum of 6 vanilla beans per 1 cup of alcohol. I ended up buy in bulk on ebay from Vanilla Products USA. (His prices are really good and he ships fast).

    One question…what brand of vodka did you use? I can’t find any that is that low priced in my area…

    • Shirley on May 4th, 2010 5:29 pm

      Hi Debra–Welcome to gfe! Yes, honey butter is a very well-received gift for sure. :-) Congrats on making your own extract! I’ve read the same as you have about the number of beans needed per cup for true extract, but I continue to make mine with two beans per container (which is probably a cup and a half) and I’m very happy with the results. Likewise, the folks who eat my baked goods are very satisfied. ;-) Of course, if you are pleased with the results using 6 per cup, then by all means continue to use 6. :-) Thanks for mentioning a vanilla bean supplier that you’ve been happy with. I’ve been really happy myself with The Organic Vanilla Bean Company. Thare are times when they are out of stock for a few days, but I’m very pleased with the quality, price, and delivery time. It’s great that we both have found good suppliers and are enjoying our homemade vanilla!

      I just use the least expensive vodka in my liquor store. I believe the brand is Aristocrat. Usually these types of stores have one sort of generic brand name that they sell for all of the basics like vodka, gin, etc.

      Thanks so much for commenting!


  15. Valerie Haight on December 4th, 2013 5:07 pm

    Hey Shirley, your vanilla extract recipe is very similar to my recipe for homemade Kahlua!! Primary difference is for Kahlua you add Instant Coffee, Sugar, and a little water. Stick in the snow for 2 -3 weeks and shake once a day!

    • Shirley on December 5th, 2013 12:07 am

      Hi Valerie–I’ve made homemade Kahlua! It’s been a very long time, but I LOVED it! :-) Snow NEVER sticks around here that long, but I love the idea of “brewing” my Kahlua in a snowbank. ;-)


      • Valerie Haight on December 5th, 2013 10:16 am

        Haha! It’s a Michigan thing, ya know? You’ll love this, I always “brewed” my Kahlua in empty milk gallon jugs! It’s been years since I’ve made any too. Maybe I’ll just have to make a batch this year! I saw Amy’s lead for the Organic Vanilla Bean Co. (Thanks Amy!). Gonna have to check them out. Hopefully they’ll get some in soon!

        • Shirley on December 8th, 2013 8:04 pm

          Good idea on using a milk jug, Valerie! :-) Sadly, I don’t think that particular vanilla bean company is still in operation. There are enough other providers of organic vanilla beans though.


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