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Vanilla Extract - Is it Worth the Price?
Vanilla extract is a spice cabinet essential even if you don’t have time to bake tasty desserts as much as you wish you did. Around this time of year we love treats that are enhanced by the flavor of vanilla including cakes, cookies and even savory dishes. For this reason, we like to make sure that the vanilla extract we are using is top notch. Unfortunately, not all companies sell vanilla extract that is as high quality.

When searching for the best vanilla extract, be sure to stay clear of Imitation Vanilla Extract. Although much less expensive, this liquid is a byproduct of paper production or a derivative of coal tar chemically manufactured through fairly simple and inexpensive processes (not exactly how we’d like to flavor the treats we’ll be giving to our loved ones).


What Makes True Vanilla Extract Special?

Unlike Imitation Vanilla Extract, real Vanilla Bean Extract uses whole vanilla beans. Many people do not realize that vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron. This is because the high quality vanilla beans grow on the orchid vine and must be pollinated and picked by hand even before the process of making Vanilla Extract begins.
These high quality beans, in this case called Bourbon Vanilla Beans, come from Madagascar and are the most flavorful and sough after type of vanilla bean in the world. Having nothing to do with bourbon alcohol, these beans are grown on the Bourbon islands of Madagascar and have a flavor that is rich and creamy with an overwhelmingly sweet, buttery aroma.

Vanilla Extract can also be made from Vanilla Beans grown in Mexico and Tahiti. Mexican Vanilla extract has a very distinct flavor profile which includes woody notes, as well as a spicy component similar to clove or nutmeg. Tahitian Vanilla Extract, on the other hand, provides a flavor profile that is fruitier than these other two types. It is also sweet with a mild hint of cherry flavor.


What is True Vanilla Extract Made From?

One difference between the vanilla beans that you would buy individually and the beans that are used to make vanilla extract is the amount of time that they are left on the vine. Vanilla beans that are grown specifically to make vanilla extract are left on the vine longer so that the flavor becomes as intense as possible.

Once vanilla beans are picked, they can start the process of making the delicious Vanilla Extract that we have come to love. Vanilla extract is made from soaking vanilla beans in alcohol and letting the alcohol take on the vanilla flavor. According to the FDA, real Vanilla Extract must contain a minimum of 35% alcohol and 100g of vanilla beans per litre (or 13.35 ounces per gallon).

Once you decide on the flavor profile and type of Vanilla Extract that makes the most sense for you, you much choose between single or double fold extract. Single fold vanilla extract is the most commercially available type of Vanilla Extract. This means that for every gallon of alcohol, 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans (about 100 beans) are used as flavoring. This provides you with incredible flavor for all of your baking and cooking needs. Double fold extract is much more difficult to find in the market and is typically used by professionals and for industrial purposes. Instead of using 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol, this is doubled to 26.7 ounces of vanilla beans (about 200).

So now you have the facts behind imitation and real Vanilla Extract. Do you think real Vanilla Extract is worth the price? We sure do.


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