The season of gift-giving season is almost upon us — when you start adding up all of the teachers, care-givers, neighbors, hairdressers, etc. in your life, it can easily overwhelm your budget. We suggest you get creative, get the kids involved, and plan for some DIY gifts this year. You can even make a few items and create gift baskets filled with homemade goodies.
Herb Infused Salt
What You’ll Need:
• Clean jars or containers
• Fresh herbs. This recipe is best with dry, hearty herbs like sage, thyme, rosemary, etc. You can use herbs like parsley, cilantro, and chives but because they contain more moisture, you’ll need to increase your drying time.
• Salt. Because this is more of a finishing salt, coarse salt is best. We chose Himalayan pink salt because of the added health benefits.
*Experiment by adding dried onion, garlic or your favorite dried spices to create unique custom blends!
Gather your herbs. We used sage, thyme, rosemary, and savory. Chop as fine as you like.
Combine herbs with salt and spread onto a baking sheet. If you have time and storage space, you can leave the sheet pan on the counter to let the herbs dry for 12-24 hours. If you are looking for a speedier method, preheat your oven to 170 degrees. When the temperature is reached, place the sheet pan inside but turn off the heat and allow to sit for an hour or so.
Because of the moisture in the herbs, some of the salt may have clumped a bit and you can break it up as you place into your jars and containers. Add a ribbon and you have a great homemade host or holiday gift.
Use within 6 months before the herbs begin to lose their potency.
DIY Sugar Scrub
What you’ll need:
• 4 c. sugar
• 1 1/3 c. oil
Combine until texture is sand-like. Add essential oils, dried herbs and flowers to create custom blends. Bonus points for cleaning and re-using yogurt or jam jars. Add a ribbon and you are set!
Your choice of brown sugar, pure cane sugar, or Turbinado sugar (raw) can be used and provide different health benefits. Check out our Apothecary department for dried herbs, flowers, and a selection of skin-soothing oils.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
What You’ll Need:
• Whole vanilla beans like these Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans from Nielsen-Massey Vanillas or Singing Dog Vanilla Vanilla Bean Paste. Use 4 whole beans or 4 Tbsp. of paste to 1 750 ml. bottle of alcohol.
• 80 proof alcohol: vanilla extract is most commonly made from vodka, but you can use bourbon, brandy, or rum instead.
• Glass bottles with tight fitting lids; either sterilize and re-use small bottles you’ve collected or you can purchase these.
• Glass measuring cup and a small funnel.
*Pro-tip: If you use vodka, add a few drops of bourbon or rum when bottling to enhance the richness and flavor.
If you used whole beans, stretch them further by adding a small piece to each bottle as you go.
Gather all materials listed above.
If you’re using whole beans, carefully score each bean with a paring knife and add it directly to your alcohol bottle. If using paste, add it directly to the bottle.
Store in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or cabinet for a few weeks to one month. Shake regularly — the more you shake, the more the vanilla beans will impart their flavor into the alcohol (if you are pressed for time, using paste vs. whole beans will expedite the process and you can brew for as little as a few days).
When you are ready to bottle, strain into a measuring cup as it’s easier to pour into the funnel and you don’t risk spilling any. Carefully pour into each bottle, add a small piece of vanilla bean, if desired. Add a ribbon or personalized tag and happy gifting!
You’ll find that baked goods will taste better than ever before with homemade vanilla!