Ina Garten’s Smart Idea for a Homemade Holiday Gift

updated Feb 24, 2021
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With the release of Ina Garten’s new book, Modern Comfort Food, in October, it’s been a good fall for learning more about how to make your kitchen a lot more like Ina’s. We learned how to cop her kitchen design, where to buy her favorite kitchen essentials, and what her most-used kitchen tool is. But along with her giant New York Times profile this week on how this year’s smaller, safer Thanksgiving celebration will be a little different, she did a video for the paper called “Inside Ina Garten’s Kitchen,” all about her favorite things — and it includes a vanilla tip that could find a way into your home or onto your gift list.

In the video, she shows us around her kitchen, “My office really,” she adds, since it’s her work kitchen, located in a separate building, she says. She used to film in her own kitchen, but now that she has the other space, she says it’s nice to be able to close the door and leave work behind. As she almost finishes the tour, she adds that she wants to show off one more thing: her homemade vanilla extract.

“This is it,” she says of the large jar full of a murky-looking liquid. “It’s been going for 35 years.” To start it, she says, you just put vanilla beans in a jar. She acknowledges that they can be expensive, but promises you only have to buy them rarely for this project. And that in the next step, you can totally cheap out on the vodka. “It’s no time for Grey Goose.” You add the vodka and beans to the jar, and after four to six months, it becomes vanilla extract. “The smell is just amazing,” she says.

At that point, the seeds in the vanilla beans become liquid, so you can snip the top and squeeze it out for use in vanilla pudding or cake, she explains, letting you see the seeds and adding a ton of flavor. She finishes with some good advice — not only is it super easy to make, but it also works well as a Christmas gift.