The Search for the Best Vanilla
Ok Merrie, this is for you! (and me!)
With that all said, I started doing a little internet research to find out more about this amazing flavoring that is used so, so often. I want to share with you a little of what I found. Now, I realized that my search was internet based and therefore may not be the most reliable but I am on a mission to find out just what is the best, and what I may have been missing.
First things first, vanilla extract should be a dark amber color. If it is any other color (clear, foggy, milky) know that it is NOT real vanilla but rather synthetic. There are many countries that vanilla comes from. A few are: Tahiti, Mexico, Madagascar (are these all countries? I know I am LAME for not knowing!). Hawaii is the ONLY place in the US that grows and produces their own vanilla extract. It seems to me that Mexican vanilla is one of the more popular kinds. There is a big warning out there about Mexican vanilla and it sure caught my attention. Much of the mexican vanilla (found outside the US) is derived from couramin which is the bean from a Brazilian tonka bean. While this bean has a very similar taste to vanilla, it is NOT vanilla and the process it goes through actually makes it TOXIC! It has been know to cause liver damage and is also a carcinogen. Couramin is used extensively in Mexico to produce vanilla. The US banned couramin laced products back in the 1950's but they still get in. If you are buying vanilla in Mexico or Mexican vanilla anywhere else, make sure it is clearly labeled "couramin-free".
Many of the vanilla extracts that find their way into the US are synthetic. The best way to determine quality is based on price. If they are selling a large bottle for a bargain price it is almost assuredly synthetic. Another tell-tale sigh is the color. Is the vanilla is foggy, or in anyway NOT dark amber it was probably made through a process using coal tar or from red and brown food coloring.
Ok, now that I have put all that out there (please don't hate me if I have some faulty info, this is internet research, remember?) I want your opinion.
What is your favorite brand/type of vanilla?
I am excited to find and try some new stuff! Ok, GO!