The Best Vanilla Extract
A blog that discusses the differences between extracts and the secret of choosing a quality one.
What is vanilla extract?
Vanilla extract is a solution made by macerating and percolating vanilla pods in a solution of ethanol and water. According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, pure vanilla extract must contain a minimum of 35% alcohol, and the vanilla flavor must be derived from real vanilla beans. The FDA also requires that 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans be used to make one gallon of “single-fold” vanilla extract, 12 ounces for “double-fold” and 11 ounces for “triple-fold” vanilla extract. This means that you should find at least 13 grams of ground vanilla beans per 100 ml (or about 3 1/2 teaspoons) in single-fold extract.
“Piper nigrum” is a Latin term meaning “Black Pepper”.
When Black Pepper is mentioned, most people think of the ground spice as seen in the picture above. Of course there are hundreds of varieties of pepper that come from many different species within this genus. So why did I choose to name my blog “Piper Nigrum”?
I have many reasons for referring to Black Pepper with this name but one of them stands out above the rest. The flavor of vanilla comes from many different volatile compounds found within the bean. These compounds are what separate natural vanilla extract from it’s artificial counterpart. Some of these volatile compounds can be found in other plants and spices, especially Black Pepper!
While researching vanilla extract I discovered that Piperine, the compound which gives Black Pepper its flavor, is also found in a small amount in vanilla beans. When you blend this compound with some of the others found in vanilla beans you get a flavor very similar to black pepper!
For me, naming my blog after Black Pepper just made sense because when used correctly, it can bring out and enhance the flavors of certain dishes. This same concept can be applied when choosing a vanilla extract. The right choice will enhance your dish rather than
Vanilla extract is traditionally made by soaking vanilla beans in at least 35% alcohol by volume. However, the bean itself is made of tiny cells full of an oily liquid called vanilla “caviar” which contains over 250 flavor compounds. By far the most abundant compound is vanillin: 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde. It’s this compound that gives vanilla its distinctive aroma and flavor. The caviar can’t escape from the cell walls, but it can be coaxed out by warming the bean to convert some of the alcohol into water. After a few weeks (or months), a deep brown liquid forms that contains both caviar and alcohol. This is vanilla extract.
Most commercial extracts are made with synthetic vanillin, not vanilla beans. This means you’re paying for alcohol and sugar instead of for flavor!
When shopping for vanilla extract, don’t look at price per ounce: look at price per vanillin. You can usually find this on a label or in an online description. Compare this with the price of pure vanillin: $5-10/gram (the cheaper you buy in bulk, the better). If you find an extract with real vanilla beans that has a price per vanillin comparable to pure vanillin,
Vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans soaked in alcohol. The best quality vanilla extract is made with the highest concentration of vanilla bean and the most natural ingredients possible. To make the best quality vanilla extract, you just need to know the secret ingredient that makes it taste great.
Vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol. The alcohol is then used to make a syrup that can be used to make ice cream, or it can be used as a flavor enhancer in foods or beverages. The syrup can also be used to make sauces or as a flavoring in cooking.
The secret ingredient that makes vanilla extract taste good is called vanillin. Vanillin is an enzyme that occurs naturally in the human body, but when it’s added to food it enhances the flavor of the food by making it taste like something else. For example, adding vanillin to chocolate makes chocolate taste like chocolate.
The key to getting the best quality vanilla extract is knowing how much vanillin it contains and using only pure vanillin. When buying vanilla extract, look for one that contains at least 3% vanillin.
You can’t just look at the ingredients on the bottle to determine if a vanilla extract is worth it. This is because some manufacturers get around FDA labeling laws by using “artificial flavor.” To be labeled as an extract and not as a flavor, the FDA requires that the product contain a minimum of 35% alcohol by volume and 100 grams of vanilla beans per liter.
Extracts are graded by the amount of vanillin in them, which is measured in plastocyanin units (PCU). A vanilla bean contains about 1,600 PCU. A high-quality extract should have at least 300 PCU per fluid ounce, and ideally anywhere from 400 to 500 PCU per fluid ounce.
The best way to find out how much vanillin is in your vanilla extract is to call the manufacturer directly and ask. Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on the reputation of the brand–and in many cases, you’ll have to pay more for a high-quality version.
I enjoy cooking and I love vanilla. So when I discovered some local organic vanilla beans at my grocery store, I decided to make my own vanilla extract. The process is simple: Split open several of the beans and add them to a jar filled with vodka. Let it sit for a while, then it’s ready to use.
But as I began researching recipes and methods, I found many different variations on this theme. Some people use bourbon or rum, some people use more or fewer beans, and some people wait six months instead of eight weeks before using their extract.
Some websites recommended adding the vanilla beans directly to baked goods during baking, while others insisted that this would cause the flavor to be lost in the heat of the oven. Some websites said that pure vanilla extract has no alcohol taste at all, while others said that you could substitute high-quality rum for the vodka in a recipe that called for pure vanilla extract. One website even claimed that imitation vanilla was superior because it was “more consistent!”
All of these websites were written by people who seemed to know what they were talking about – so who should I believe? What does “pure” mean? Is bourbon better than vodka? How long do you have to wait before your homemade extract is ready to use
When you purchase an extract that does not require refrigeration, it has been heat processed to prevent the growth of microorganisms. Therefore, the process involves heating the extract and holding it at a specific temperature for a specific amount of time.
Most extracts are made with alcohol and water. The ratio of these two ingredients is the first clue to determining the quality of an extract. A good extract should contain 35% alcohol, which is 70 proof. Any less alcohol means that less flavor was extracted from the beans. Also, extracts containing high amounts of water are subject to more rapid spoilage because water is a perfect environment for bacteria to grow in.