Wow. I Bought Vanilla Extract Today.

sheilajoyce_gw

I bought an 8 ounce bottle of McCormick's vanilla extract today. I know it is expensive, but it now costs $30!!!!! My sister tells me that America's Test Kitchen product testing resulted in the selection of some brand of imitation vanilla as the winner. Wonder what that brand is.

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cooper8828

Yep, I had sticker shock also the last time I bought a bottle. I used to be pretty liberal with the stuff, and now I am kind of miserly.

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rockypointdog

Yea, me too. I bought some the other day and am still reeling.

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Martha Scott

I make my own vanilla and have for 40 years. Really good stuff. However, if the vanilla is expensive, I expect the next time I buy beans, I'll be spending more money!

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fawnridge (Ricky)

The local spice shop in Fort Collins has a 12 ounce bottle of organic vanilla, alcohol free, for $20. I buy it 6 bottles at a time and it's gone in two months.

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annie1992

I had some homemade vanilla, but it tasted a lot more like rum than it did vanilla, and I intensely dislike rum. I tried again with bourbon and liked it even less, so I quit making my own. I understand it can be made with glycerin in lieu of alcohol, but I haven't tried that.

I buy large bottles at Sam's Club, the last time I bought 8 ounces of McCormick's it was about $20.00. The bottle I have now is Rodelle, I like it and should have bought two, because Sam's Club doesn't have it any more.

I've also picked up vanilla at places like Marshall's and TJ Maxx. Right now Amazon has a 16 ounce McCormick's for $33.94 with Prime Membership.

Anyway, I'll pick up a couple the next time I go to Sam's Club, which won't be until spring, I think!

Annie


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plllog

There's a vanilla shortage driving up the prices.

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lindac92

Because of a cyclone that hit Madagascar a couple of years ago. should recover soon....wonder about Tahitian and Mexican vanilla?


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sooz

Have a care about buying Mexican vanilla, which is frequently made with an extract of beans from the tonka tree vs the extract of beans from the vanilla plant. The toxic substance in it is called coumarin which can be dangerous for people taking blood thinners like coumadin.

Report about Mexican vanilla

Snipes found the dangers to be true

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plllog

I read that the shortage is also fueled by consumers demanding real vanilla for products that had been made with artificial for decades. Madagascar may be nearly recovered but I doubt the price is going down...

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cleo07

I bought $30 worth of beans (10 beans at the time) and put them into a large bottle of vodka. 3 months later, perfect vanilla! You can keep adding more vodka to the bottle for some time too.

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nancyofnc

I had a home baking business and used a lot of vanilla. I started making my own and saved a ton of money. I bought grade B vanilla beans bulk lot on eBay, cut them up (about 6), put them in a quart Mason jar, filled it with good vodka, put it on the counter with a plastic screw on lid. Every day I shook it vigorously a couple of times. After a few weeks the color was dark. I started using it by straining and decanting one fourth of it into a half pint whiskey bottle, then added more vodka and a couple more beans to the quart jar, shaking it when I remembered to do it, and didn't remove the original beans as it got darker and richer.

In a year I used 3 gallons of vanilla extract (192 oz). At the Sam's club price of $20 for 8 oz ($2.50/oz) that would have been $480. The beans cost $1.20 each (x6), the vodka about $18.00 to start (26 oz), so for a gallon(64 oz) it cost @$54 or about $.0.85/oz. Or, to compare: store bought $480, homemade $162, and the store bought 8oz $20, homemade $6.80.

BTW "Bourbon Vanilla Beans" are from the islands that used to be called the Bourbon Islands. Vanilla extract is not made from bourbon. If you want to get a stronger vanilla extract you can use grain alcohol which is even cheaper than vodka.

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wintercat_gw

Just kill me but I stopped using the real thing over a year ago and switched to the artificial, which costs a fraction of the real. Most people can't tell the difference. In my case "most people" are kids, but the adults, too, keep on raving over cakes which I now make with artificial vanilla. And no, they're not being polite. This lot - if they don't like something, they quit eating it after the first bite.

I saved what was left of my real Madagascar for my best friend's birthday cake several weeks ago, and that's it. No more real vanilla and nothing the worse for it.

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Nancy

I know all the cooks insist only "the best" vanilla, but I am in the same camp with wintercat. I use artificial vanilla and can not tell the difference in most things. I was at a local Amish store a week or 2 ago and bought a 4 oz bottle of real vanilla for 3.50 just because it was so reasonable.

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colleenoz

I bought a ton of vanilla beans for a virtual song in Bali a couple of trips ago and now they live in jars of vodka giving me lots of yummy vanilla.

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Martha Scott

Cleo -- I've tried Vodka and think the rum has a more rounded flavor. I have two big jars of vanilla in my larder and they last a long time.

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Martha Scott

Annie - I don't taste the rum. I've never tried bourbon but I have tried vodka -- that is tasteless and I felt it didn't have the depth that rum vanilla does. I have been given "real" (meaning someone else made it) vanilla as gifts and I prefer my own homemade version.

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chloebud

I once read a review in Cook's Illustrated saying their tasters couldn't tell the difference between imitation and real vanilla. For years I bought McCormick's pure vanilla. These days I use Nielsen-Massey's vanilla. I pick it up whenever I see it at HomeGoods, TJ Maxx or Marshalls. The last two 8-oz. bottles I picked up at HG are marked $12.99. Probably would cost more now. I have a friend who occasionally sends me vanilla extract and beans from Baldwin Brothers. Good stuff but not cheap.

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gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

I always get Trader Joe's bourbon vanilla extract. Always consistent quality and not overly pricey (at least the last time I purchased) given the amount I normally use. I am not overly fond of the taste of vanilla so only use it in baked recipes that specifically call for it. A 4oz bottle lasts me a reasonably long time :-)

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chloebud

^^Yes...TJ's vanilla is good, too.

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annie1992

Nancy, I know that "bourbon" vanilla isn't made from bourbon, I was just trying to find a taste that I liked. I dislike vanilla flavored bourbon just about as much as I dislike vanilla flavored rum. The vodka version is minimally acceptable, so I don't bother with that either. I also don't put beer or wine in anything because I just don't like that flavor, whether it's chili or coq au vin.

Wintercat, whether I use real vanilla or the imitation vanilla "flavor" depends on what I'm making. Chocolate chip cookies for the kids? Nope, they can't tell and don't care. Plain custard or sugar cookies, I can definitely tell. Stronger flavors like pumpkin or banana bread? Harder to tell, but I THINK there's a difference, but no one else notices. So, if I'm making creme brulee or vanilla custard or Mother's bread pudding, some whipped cream, anything where the vanilla is a predominate flavor, I'm using the real thing. Brownies or chocolate chip cookies (which I don't eat because I don't like them), yeah, the fake stuff is acceptable.

As I've often said, taste is subjective, not objective. What you might like, I might not and to each their own. Although I do agree with sooz, you have to be really careful with Mexican vanilla. I'm usually more careful about things from places like Mexico or China, where the practices may be more lax than I'm comfortable with anyway.

Annie


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Lars

Yesterday I broke my bottle of Mexican vanilla extract when I was getting someone out of my cabinet, which is too crowded, forcing the vanilla jar to fall. I don't know why I had moved the vanilla bottle to the front - I seldom use vanilla, and when I make vanilla ice cream, I use the whole beans - not the extract. I have another bottle of vanilla extract, Cook's brand, which says that it is made with Tahitian vanilla and Bourbon, and I have a small jar of Beanilla Madagascar vanilla paste, which is what I normally use for vanilla flavoring. It was a lot cheaper when I bought it several years ago.

I tend to use other flavorings instead of vanilla (such as Amaretto or Frangelico) because I find myself saturated with vanilla flavored products, including protein powders - many of which are difficult to find unflavored. Most protein powder are either vanilla or chocolate, and I do not want vanilla in the savory dishes that I add protein powder to. I'm not quite tired of chocolate yet. I buy cases of protein shakes (for my diet) in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and banana. I think one of the things that turned me off from vanilla was buying vanilla yogurt, thinking it was plain. I really dislike vanilla in yogurt, and I really like it only in ice cream, which I seldom make any more.

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plllog

I haven't tested this in any controlled way, but I think I don't really taste the difference between imitation and basic/ordinary vanilla extract in the baking, but I do notice the difference between basic real vanilla and top quality. It's the difference between "white" taste and more of the full rondure of nuance that vanilla pods have.

I was bummed when the multivitamins I liked most--ones I could take on an empty stomach because they were fluff in capsules rather than bound in tablets--decided to jettison imitation vanilla so they could be "all natural", as if vitamins aren't compounds from laboratories, even though they have botanical sources. The vanillan was used to mask the sulphur of the B vitamins. I can't even get Brussels sprouts passt my nose! The vitamins without vanilla perfume neutralizer made me urps. I don't know for sure, but I've read that lab made vanilla is chemically identical to basic real vanilla extract. It's too bad it has the stigma.

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chloebud

"So, if I'm making creme brulee or vanilla custard or Mother's bread pudding, some whipped cream, anything where the vanilla is a predominate flavor, I'm using the real thing."


Annie, that makes sense to me, and I've read that same thinking with various reviews regarding vanilla. I remember a friend of mine making my shortbread cookies. She was disappointed because they didn't taste like mine. We went over the ingredients she used. It ended up she used imitation vanilla. The list of ingredients for the cookies is fairly minimal, and the lack of flavor with her cookies was pretty obvious. She also used unsalted butter...something I often DON'T use when baking certain things. Just a flavor preference after doing lots of testing.

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cleo07

Marthascott-I agree! The rum is better. That’s what I used to use when I used one bean in a small bottle. I really liked spiced rum too. When I got these beans in the mail, I found a huge bottle of vodka in my pantry so that’s why I used it. i will use rum next time. I’m thinking of making it for Christmas gifts for my neighbors and friends so should start soaking it soon.

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agmss15

That Madagascar vanilla paste is my favorite. A little bit in my yogurt or whipped cream... Yum.

I made the vodka with vanilla beans. Eh. I use it when I run out of paste or regular extract but it doesn’t taste as good to me.

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Martha Scott

Cleo -- I buy rum especially to make vanilla. But I can understand finding a big bottle of vodka . . . I would have probably used that too!

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carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b

A 2 oz. bottle of organic vanilla extract is about $7-$8 here - that's around $3-$4 per ounce.

& I've been making my own vanilla bourbon for a very long time. I like bourbon because it already has a vanilla flavor. I even use it straight in place of vanilla.

I buy the beans for less than $2 each and after using the pulp, I steep the rinds in some good bourbon and use that as I would regular extract. I just keep topping it off, & I use the bourbon-steeped rinds to flavor rice pudding.

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sooz

I bought a 2 ounce bottle today at Aldi's for $2.30. I've used Aldi's vanilla before and it's A-OK by me.

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savren

I came across this short video today. Seems very labor intensive.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-22/the-painful-process-of-pollinating-vanilla/10732472

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artemis_ma

I do buy the real stuff, but I bake so little that it lasts me three years or something.

Edit... I'm noticing some folk are making their own, with rum or bourbon. I'll try that next time when I run out (it's a new bottle here, so I hope I remember in three years...)

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writersblock

Seems very labor intensive.

Everything about producing vanilla is very labor intensive and time consuming. If it came from countries where wages were higher, few would be able to afford it.

As a matter of fact, there are native vanilla orchids in FL, but they don't produce desirable beans, and there is some work being done on hybridizing them with the better bean producers to see if it would be possible to produce vanilla here, now that the price for the imports is increasing so much.

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Jakkom Katsu

The winner in Cook's Illustrated's 2009 vanilla vs artificial vanilla was CF Sauer Co.’s Gold Medal Imitation Vanilla, for baked goods.

For non-baked goods (boiled custards, puddings, whipped cream, etc.) real vanilla was the winner. Interestingly enough, it was simple old McCormick's brand real vanilla which placed higher than the artisanal brands such as Cooks, Nielsen Massey, and others.

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sheilajoyce_gw

Thanks, Jakkom. Not sure I have seen the CF Sauer Gold Medal, but I will see what is out there. But I would rather not have to have 2 types on hand.

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Feathers11

I don't bake often, but I do use vanilla a few times a week in breakfasts like farro and chia pudding. I'll also add a drop or two to my afternoon tea. I currently have a McCormick's that I don't recall the cost. I do like TJ's, but I'm intrigued with making my own from bourbon. A local specialty spice store sells vanilla beans. I enjoy the taste so much that I've always bought the real stuff, although I have to admit I haven't compared it with imitation.

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plllog

I have a couple of vanilla beans that got dried out. Do you think they'd work in booze? Or would they have lost too much flavor?

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carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b

Go for it. What have you got to lose?

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plllog

LOL! Carol, you're right. The answer being an inexpensive bottle of booze. :)

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gyr_falcon

I noticed yesterday, at Costco, that the prices may be finally coming back down again. A 12 oz. bottle had been $36 for quite a while. But yesterday I saw it was $29 (or possible $29.99).

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nancyofnc

Still cheaper to make your own.

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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I cook for the the soup kitchen and now use the imitation in recipes. Neilson Massey vanilla is my go to and I have read quite a bit that homemade doesn't compare.

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