I love to bake, and one of my favorite ingredients is pure vanilla extract. I have found that Mexican vanilla packs double the punch of American vanilla for half the price. You can find it in any grocery store on the Mexican or Ethnic Foods aisle. If you have a friend going to Mexico on vacation, have them bring you back a large bottle of pure vanilla, it is super inexpensive compared to the pure vanilla sold here in the states. I add vanilla to my hot green tea, it gives it a nice flavor. I just pour a little in, about a 1/2 teaspoon. I do not care for the imitation vanilla.
By Bobbie G from Rockwall, TX
Imitation vanilla is made from tree bark and even some Mexican vanillas are too. Alton Brown (Good Eats Food network) did a show on vanilla and where it's from. Vanilla from Madagascar is the best. You just have to make sure that vanilla is not labeled Vanilla flavoring.
My daughter and I love it too, we get it from a great bulk natural store near our town. We use it as our "special ingredient", which means in every pancake, waffle, boxed cake mix we make, ohhh brownies too!
Years ago I bought a quart of vanilla while visiting Mexico. I loved it and used it for YEARS until the huge bottle was empty. I still have the bottle as a keepsake! It was very good.
I feel compelled to mention that recently the US FDA has warned consumers NOT to use vanilla from Mexico. It seems that they are now adding a tonka bean extract to the vanilla extract. It apparently has a similar flavor to vanilla and they are able to use less of the pure vanilla. Tonka bean extract is banned in the US. It has coumarin in it which causes liver and other organ damage. I just thought I should pass that information along and everyone can decide for themselves if they want to continue using it. I had no known ill effects from the vanilla I used........BUT......I bought mine 20 years ago! I now buy pure vanilla at Aldi's. It is very good and so much cheaper than "normal" supermarket prices. (02/07/2007)
This has nothing to do with baking, but I learned this trick while working in a daycare center. You can use pure vanilla extract to lighten or in some cases take away the redness and bruising of bite marks. Working at the daycare, there were always kids getting bit (by the other kids) of course, and if the parent saw a big tooth mark on their child, they got understandably upset, but if there was little to no mark, they just brushed it off as kids will be kids. It does work I've tried it on my own kids, and afterward they smell wonderful. (02/07/2007)
My mother went to Mexico recently and brought me back a 1 liter bottle of "pure Vanilla", it did not say extract! When I opened the bottle it was like water with vanilla flavoring. I did some research and found out that to be called "Extract", the alcohol content had to be at least 35%. I used it in a rice pudding recipe and I did not like the way it flavored the recipe. Now I'm trying to figure out what to do with this very large bottle of vanilla water. (02/08/2007)
I have to also agree about being very careful with vanilla from Mexico. Be very sure you know the source and that it is reputable! Much of it, especially if purchased in a pharmacy, contains coumadin which can cause liver damage. Coumadin is also a primary ingredient in warfarin (rat poison). The easiest and best way to get great vanilla flavor is to just make your own. It's very simple to do. You can find lots of recipes on the internet. Just Google it. (02/08/2007)
I used to add both vanilla, maple, and almond to most things, creating a very professional flavor and aroma, but can no longer afford it, regardless. Thanks for the memory I can almost smell. :~ ) (02/12/2007)
I make my own vanilla extract.
Buy a CHEAP bottle of vodka and some vanilla beans from ebay. I used 7 oz. beans for 60 oz of vodka. Cut the beans lengthwise and into 3-4 in. pieces. Put them in a jar with the vodka and shake the jar every few days. In 3-6 months, you have GREAT vanilla! Strain before using.
It's not worth buying a LOT of vanilla beans because you'll want to use them up and then you'll have GALLONS of extract. Just buy 1/2 lb. or so. I leave the pieces in the same jar and add vodka to it, kinda like sourdough starter. (01/24/2009)
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