The Cadillac of Vanilla
The exquisite orchid family is the source of the most popular flavor in the world — vanilla. The vanilla bean is the fruit of one of the only orchids which produce anything edible. The first use of vanilla dates back to the Aztec Indians of Central Mexico. Using the vanilla bean and cocoa, they created a drink, "Xoco-lall," which was consider to be the "Nectar of the Gods."
Upon conquering the Aztecs, Cortez brought the pods to Spain and, from there, its use spread to other parts of Europe. Thomas Jefferson, Ambassador to France and future president, is credited for introducing vanilla to the United States.
Today, vanilla beans are grown in four main areas of the world. Madagascar is the world’s largest producer of vanilla beans (and the gold standard to which all others are compared), followed by Indonesia, Mexico, and Tahiti. The entire process of vanilla cultivation, pollination, and harvesting is done by hand, making it the most labor intensive of all agricultural products. This process can take from five to six years!
Since 1907, Nielsen-Massey, a family owned and managed company, manufactures and sells pure vanilla extract, vanilla powder, vanilla paste, organic vanilla and whole vanilla beans. Headquartered in Waukegan, Illinois, the company also has a production facility in the Netherlands.
Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla extracts are produced using a cold (room temperature) extraction process that takes three to five weeks. What is a cold extraction process? Room temperature water and alcohol are re-circulated though the vanilla beans and the alcohol extracts the vanilla flavor from the beans. The production facility in Waukegan, Illinois still has the original extracting tanks used in the early years of the company.
The Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste, combines vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds into a unique, convenient paste form. It has an intense, delicious vanilla flavor and retains the full aroma of vanilla. It can be used in recipes that call for vanilla beans or vanilla extract. One tablespoon of the paste is the equivalent of one vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract.
KosherEye decided to try this very appealing product and, armed with the award-winning cookbook, A Century of Flavors, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, we made two of the recipes. Ina's Vanilla Bean Pound Cake, contributed by Chef Ina Pinkney, of Ina's in Chicago, was a convenient recipe that uses a food processor to combine the ingredients. The cake was delicious--light, not too sweet and had a subtle vanilla flavor. The light specks of the vanilla bean added to the visual appeal.
To serve with the cake, we made Caramelized Pineapple Sauce. What could be better than fresh pineapple, dark brown sugar, vanilla — a winner!
Our verdict: Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste is our choice for recipes that include vanilla as an ingredient.
About A Century of Flavors, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas:
The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, 2008, named A Century of Flavor the Best Corporate Cookbook in America. The vanilla-inspired cookbook, published by family-owned Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, celebrates the exciting nuances of one of America’s most-loved and versatile ingredients – pure vanilla.
The cookbook highlights 50 recipes, including some that feature vanilla in vinaigrette, soup, side dishes, pasta sauce and salmon.
DID YOU KNOW?
A few drops of vanilla in a can of paint will help eliminate unpleasant odors!
A vanilla bean under your car seat gives a fresh aroma and helps eliminate musty odors.
A teaspoon or so of vanilla in Italian tomato sauces or Mexican chili helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes!
The United States consumption of vanilla beans is approximately 1,200 tons per year!
Vanilla extract is used by veteran fishermen to mask the smell of their hands so the fish won't detect them!
To learn about the different types of vanilla, please watch this informative Nielsen-Massey video.
All Nielsen-Massey's vanilla products are Kosher certified by the Chicago Rabbinical Council, Gluten-free, and have been a certified organic producer since 1998. For information, recipes, where to purchase, and fun facts about vanilla, visit Nielsen-Massey online. KosherEye invites our friends to share their favorite vanilla recipes!