Vanilla Extract Particularities and Origins.

Vanilla Extract Particularities and Origins.

Vanilla is a highly sought-after product on the market, found in almost every kitchen, whether in the form of pods or vanilla-derived products. Despite increasing demand, exports are unable to meet market needs, causing vanilla prices to soar globally. The rise in demand has led producers to create natural vanilla extracts from pods that do not meet market standards. While the quality remains the same, vanilla extract contains sugar and alcohol. Vanilla extract can replace vanilla pods in some recipes without any loss of quality.

What is vanilla extract?

Filtering fresh vanilla pods in a mixture of water and alcohol yields vanilla extract. Vanilla is popularly used in pastry and baking, serving as a key ingredient to impart exotic flavor to desserts and cake frosting. Vanilla extract has made it easier to incorporate vanilla into foods, now found in most kitchens. The application of vanilla in recipes is no longer limited to gourmet chefs and luxury patisseries.

There are several varieties of vanilla extracts available on the market with different names, intensities, flavor profiles, and prices. It’s not always easy to know which one to choose to achieve a well-scented vanilla recipe. The flavor of vanilla varies depending on the preparation of the vanilla extract and the variety of pods used for filtration. Nevertheless, pure vanilla extract is obtained from the highest quality vanilla pods. Vanilla flavor profiles are well pronounced, and its consistency is thicker than that of laboratory-synthesized vanilla extracts. Among the major varieties of pure vanilla extracts are those derived from Madagascar vanilla pods, Tahitian vanilla pods, Mexican vanilla pods, and other emerging producers.

What are the characteristics of pure vanilla extract?

Pure vanilla extract must primarily be made from pure vanilla pods. The quality of the extract depends on the quality of the pods used. In Madagascar, Bourbon vanilla extract is produced from top-quality pods, which contributes to the reputation of Madagascar vanilla extracts among consumers and professional chefs. It’s worth noting that Madagascar Bourbon vanilla is considered the highest quality vanilla in the world, with a rich, sweet, and creamy vanilla flavor. When discussing vanilla extract particularities, it’s crucial to understand that two methods are used for vanilla aroma extraction: maceration and percolation. The aroma can only be extracted in a solution of water and alcohol. The FDA requires vanilla extract to contain at least 100 grams of vanilla pods and 35% alcohol per liter. Allowed ingredients in vanilla extract manufacturing are limited to pods, sugar, water, and alcohol. Most producers refer to FDA guidelines in their classification of “Pure” vanilla extract to develop a product that meets the requirements of different markets.

Why is there sugar in vanilla extract?

In hot vanilla extraction, a fixative is necessary to prevent the aroma from evaporating with the rise in temperature of the alcoholic solution. Sugar is one of the permitted ingredients by the FDA in pure vanilla extracts. Producers of vanilla extract frequently use it as a natural fixative. For Bourbon vanilla extract, producers typically use 100% natural crystallized cane sugar. In some vanilla extracts, sugar is replaced with glycerin. Vanilla extract contains less than 5% sugar, which is nutritionally insignificant when adding a small amount of the finished product to recipes.

What is the origin of vanilla extracts?

The origin of vanilla extracts varies depending on the producing country on one side and the variety of pods used for extraction on the other side.

  • Madagascar Vanilla Extract

In Madagascar and other islands in the Indian Ocean, Bourbon vanilla used to create vanilla extract comes from the Vanilla planifolia variety. Madagascar is the world’s leading producer of vanilla pods, with an annual production of 1500 tons, accounting for nearly 8% of global production. The country also exports high-quality vanilla extracts and other vanilla-derived products, approximately 90 tons per year.

  • Mexican Vanilla Extract

Most of the vanilla cultivated worldwide originates from Mexico. Mexico was the first vanilla producer. The discovery of hand pollination methods in the 1840s propelled vanilla cultivation worldwide, including in the Indian Ocean where Bourbon vanilla is produced. Vanilla planifolia is the most well-known and marketed variety in the market. The country also produces vanilla pods and derivatives of Vanilla Pompona, a relatively rare variety on the market, with pods larger and shorter than other vanillas. Also known as Vanillon, Vanilla Pompona generally grows wild.

  • Tahitian Vanilla Extract

Tahitian vanilla is primarily cultivated in French Polynesia. Vanilla enthusiasts recognize it by its floral and fruity cherry notes. Tahitian vanilla extract thus imparts a unique flavor in vanilla recipes. This unique flavor profile makes Tahitian vanilla extract and pods more expensive than other vanillas. However, Tahitian vanilla extract tends to lose some of its flavors quickly when used in cooked recipes. To take advantage of its unique flavors, it is mainly used in cold or frozen recipes.

  • Indonesian Vanilla Extract

Indonesia is one of the emerging vanilla-producing countries in the world market. The country produces vanilla in relatively large quantities. The only difference from other vanillas lies in the drying process. Indonesians have replaced the traditional sun-drying technique of pods with fire drying. This technique accelerates the drying process and adds

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