3. Put the vanilla seeds and the split pod into your glass bottle (alternatively, you can use only the scraped pods for this, and save the seeds to use in another recipe). It may be necessary to cut the pods in half in order to fit them into a short bottle or jar. 4. Fill your bottle with vodka, bourbon, or a blend of the two. Cap or cork the bottle and give it a vigorous shake. 5. Store in a cool location out of direct sunlight, such as a cabinet or pantry, for 3 to 4 weeks (the longer the infusing time, the stronger the final vanilla flavor will be). 6. As your recipient uses up the extract, he or she can continue adding fresh vanilla pods (and seeds, if using) and more alcohol as needed to keep the bottle mostly full. This way, if stored as directed, your gift could last indefinitely.
Tummy Time Tea With all the parties, festivities, and gatherings that occur during this time of year, it’s easy to overindulge. When your belly begs for relief, brew up this tea. Makes 1 cup loose tea, 8 cups brewed.
Ingredients ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons dried spearmint ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons dried peppermint 2 tablespoons fennel seeds 2 tablespoons dried tarragon 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried chopped ginger root
Instructions Put all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir with a spoon to combine. Transfer to an airtight lidded container, such as a glass jar or metal canister, to gift or store. Store at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for up to 4 months. To brew an individual cup of tea: Spoon 2 tablespoons of tea blend into a tea cup and pour 1 cup of boiling water over the herbs. Cover with a saucer and allow to steep for 15 to 20 minutes, according to taste. Strain off the herbs and discard or compost. To brew a full pot: Scoop ½ cup of the tea blend into a ceramic or heatproof-glass teapot or container. Pour 4 cups of boiling water over the herbs. Steep and strain as above. Serve as is, or with honey and lemon.
HOMEMADE PACKAGING TIPS • I squirrel away pretty glass bottles in my basement yearround, so I can turn to them during the holidays for decorative gifting. They’re lovely for presenting vinegars, cordials, elixirs, infused honeys, and extracts. • A length of simple raffia or jute wrapped around the lid of a mason jar or the neck of a bottle makes an inexpensive yet charming decoration. • Themed gift baskets are always well received. Tuck in a mug and a package of homemade tea, or a hand-stitched kitchen towel with a bottle of vanilla extract. • Thrift stores are often filled with handmade baskets at great prices. Pick up a few and use them as the foundation for your gift baskets.