Indian Name: Vanilla flower
Botanical Name: Vanilla planifolia
Comman Names: Vanilla orchid, Vanilla Pods, Vanilla Beans.
Natural Vanilla Flavor
People who prefer not to use an alcohol-based extract can substitute natural vanilla flavor found in natural and specialty food stores and some supermarkets. It usually is made with a glycerin or a propylene glycol base. Although the flavor comes from vanilla beans, it doesn't fit the FDA profile for extracts, so it must legally be called natural vanilla flavor.
Note: The texture of natural vanilla - especially in a glycerin base - is viscous and a little darker than vanilla extract. It also smells somewhat different. In uncooked foods and beverages it tastes fairly similar but with a slight aftertaste; in cooked or baked foods, it's more similar to extract.
Vanilla - Vanillin Flavoring
Vanilla flavor is a mixture of pure vanilla extract and synthetic substances, most commonly, synthetic vanillin. (Note: this product cannot legally have "natural" on the label.) There are a couple of common brands that contain a blend of natural and synthetic vanillas. If you grew up with a natural/synthetic blend, this may taste more familiar to you than a pure extract.
Imitation vanilla is a mixture made from synthetic substances, which imitate part of natural vanilla smell and flavor. Imitation vanilla in the United States comes from synthetic vanillin, which mimics the flavor of natural vanillin, one of the components that gives vanilla its extraordinary bouquet.
The first synthetics were made in Germany in the 1870s because pure vanilla was so expensive that only the wealthy could afford it. It was first made from coniferin, the glucoside that makes some pines smell a little like vanilla. In the 1890s a French chemist created a synthetic from euganol, found in cloves. The two most common sources for synthetic vanillin have been Lignin Vanillin, a by-product of the paper industry, which has been chemically treated to resemble the taste of pure vanilla extract, and Ethyl Vanillin, which is a coal-tar derivative and frequently far stronger than either Lignin Vanillin or pure vanilla.
In the 1930s, the Ontario Paper Company, was struggling with the sulphite liquor, a by-product of paper making, which was polluting local streams near their plant. Company chemists realized it could be turned into synthetic vanillin, a viable but curious ecological solution to a big problem. If you grew up on synthetics, imitation vanilla will be a familiar flavor for you. Given the fact that vanilla isn't that expensive, you might consider learning to enjoy the real deal.
Natural vanillin is one of the over two hundred organic components that make up the flavor and aroma of vanilla, and it's the one we most associate with vanilla. Vanilla beans sometimes have pure vanillin crystals that develop on the bean's surface. The crystals give off an iridescent sparkle in sunlight and are quite edible.
Coumarin is a derivative of the tonka bean, which comes from Dipteryx ordorata, a tree native to Brazil. Some of the organic constituents that make up its flavor are similar to, or the same as, those in pure vanilla. Coumarin is frequently found in synthetic vanillas from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean as it's cheap and it makes synthetic vanilla taste more like the natural. Unfortunately, coumarin is considered toxic, especially to the liver, and potentially carcinogenic, and has been banned from the United States since the 1950s. (Dicumarol, which is a derivative of coumarin, is the active ingredient in certain blood-thinning medications, and is legal in the United States.)
Cookie Vanilla is a brand name for a blend of vanillas created by one of the American vanilla manufacturers. It's a blend of Tahitian and Bourbon vanilla, which makes it sweet and floral. If you enjoy the flavor of Tahitian vanilla but feel pure Tahitian vanilla is too expensive for your budget, then use Cookie Vanilla or make your own blend of Tahitian and Bourbon vanilla extracts.
There are several types of vanilla powders commercially available. Some are made from sucrose that has been ribbon-sprayed with vanilla extract, and some are a dextrose-vanilla extract mix. They are good for putting into beverages if you want a slightly sweet product that dissolves easily. You can also mix them into powdered or granulated sugar for a vanilla-flavored sugar and you can sprinkle the powders on finished foods such as cinnamon/vanilla toast or...on top of the family heirloom cake when it's warm from the oven. Be aware that many of the vanilla powders from Europe are actually synthetic. Check the ingredients list to see if it's natural or not.
Ground Vanilla Beans
Vanilla beans ground to a fine powder are sometimes confused with vanilla powder. Ground vanilla beans are sometimes used in commercial and industrial products. Ground vanilla is absolutely exquisite in food. Because it isn't in an alcohol carrier, you won't lose flavor when you cook or bake with it. As a result, you can use about half the amount of beans as extract.
Exhausted Vanilla Beans
Exhausted vanilla beans are the ground residue of the extraction process. They may still hold some flavor and are added to commercial vanilla ice creams (often called "vanilla-bean" ice cream), and other products. They are generally not used in home cooking.
Single Fold, Double Fold, etc.
The word "fold" connotes concentration in liquid vanilla extracts and synthetics. Single fold (written 1x) is the standard concentrate of pure vanilla extract. Double fold (2x) is twice as strong, and so forth. Concentrations can go up to 20-fold, but the extract isn't real stable above four-fold. In candy-making, where liquids can change the chemistry of the finished product, a multi-fold extract concentrate is useful.
Vanilla paste is a sweet concentrated vanilla extract that has the vanilla bean seeds included in the mix. It is very useful in cooking when you don't want to add much additional liquid.
Vanilla oleoresin is a semi-solid concentrate obtained by removing the solvent from the vanilla extract. A solution of isopropanol is frequently used instead of ethanol for the preparation. Some flavor and aroma is lost during removal of the solvent, but it does contain essential oils. Vanilla oleoresin is used in non-food products. Unfortunately, it isn't always stable in candle and soap making, which is too bad, as it's considerably less expensive than Vanilla Absolute.
Vanilla absolute is the most concentrated form of vanilla. It is often used to in perfumes and other aroma-based products. Because it's so expensive, most candles, soaps, and other scented specialty merchandise, are made from synthetic vanillin. Vanilla Absolute is used in very high-end products in small quantities, often mixed with other fragrances in perfumes, for instance.
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