Vanilla Guide

Published: 02nd May 2012
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If you want to buy vanilla but are confused by the different types of vanilla that are on the market and what the differences are, this guide will help you learn your planifolias from your tahitensis and the best ways to use each.
The vanilla Planifolia is more generically known as Bourbon vanilla. It originated in Mexico where vanilla cuttings were taken in the 1800ís and grown by the French in large plantations. Bourbon vanilla is perhaps the most recognisable flavour that we know and love from Ice Cream, desserts and drinks. This type of vanilla is extremely popular and is widely considered to be the best vanilla. Its aroma is described as being woody, oily and leathery. Bourbon vanilla is mainly grown in Madagascar, Uganda and India.
What would a baker do without vanilla? Their cookies wouldn't taste as sweet and their custards would be bland. A world without vanilla would be a sad, sad place. But lucky for us, not only can we easily get our hands on this entrancing spice, but we even have the option to pick our favorite variety; the most popular being Tahitian, Mexican or Bourbon (also known as Madagascar). But, when faced with these options, which one should you choose?
Unless you're a vanilla aficionado, you most likely don't know what the difference is between these three varieties of vanilla. Some people believe that vanilla is vanilla is vanilla, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Tahitian, Mexican and Bourbon vanilla all have their own unique flavor profile; and they have something different to offer to the dishes they're enhancing.
The only problem with vanilla is that this spice can cost you a pretty penny. And it's that high price tag that has many of us opting for imitation vanilla (even if we don't admit it to anyone). But with a little bit of research, and the ability to shop online, you can get this fragrant pod for a reasonable price. We quite like Beanilla and Chef Central as resources; and Amazon has never let us down. Click through the slideshow below to learn the difference between these three varieties. And next time you shop for vanilla (the real thing!) you'll know which one is right for you
Vanilla is a flavour that we have come to know and love. Milkshakes, Ice creams, Lattes have all been spiced up with it and it is now a staple product in any chef or bakers pantry. However, many people are left bemused when it comes to using vanilla in its purest forms and are daunted by the best ways to store it and keep it and get the very best out of it. So if you want to buy vanilla but are unsure about the best way to use it then have a look at this guide which aims to answer all of your vanilla related questions.
One of the main questions that get asked on a regular basis is how to use a vanilla bean. Well, the best way to use the bean is to split it length wise and scrape the caviar from the middle, you then add what you scrape from the middle to the recipe. One vanilla bean is around the equivalent of one tablespoon of vanilla extract.
A great tip for getting the very most for your money if you buy vanilla pods is to dry out the split vanilla pods and let them dry for a few days then add it your sugar bowl to give it that extra flavour. Alternatively you can wrap them in some variety of cloth and leave the aromas to exude. You can get so much out of a vanilla pod so do not make the mistake of thinking that once you have used the edible parts that you should throw the rest away.
Another question that is frequently asked regarding vanilla is what the best way is to store it. Well basically its needs to be kept cool, dry and in a dark place like a cupboard or a pantry. Store your vanilla in a sealed container like a plastic Tupperware pot or a jar and perhaps most importantly of all, keep it away from the refrigerator. If you properly seal and store your vanilla then there it can quite easily last between 6-9 months. Vanilla extract also lasts a really long time and in fact it just keeps on getting better with age and reached its peak at around two years so it is a not a problem as long as it is stores at the correct temperature.
However, if for whatever reason the vanilla beans have become hard over time this will be due to excessive moisture loss. However this can be fixed by soaking the beans in warm water for several hours before use.
Another question surrounding vanilla stems from the confusion over the alcohol content. Alcohol is used to help extract the flavours from the vanilla. FDA regulations also state that pure vanilla extract has to be made using at least a 35% alcohol solution.
It is also important whilst learning about vanilla to understand the different types of vanilla and where they come from to ensure that when you buy vanilla you get the right product for you.
The biggest difference is in flavor profiles. Madagascar, Bourbon and Mexican are all the same species, but having been grown and cured in different climates and soil, they have similar but slightly differing profiles. They all have a basic fruity aroma and strong vanilla flavor. Tahitian beans are a different species and have a more earthly aroma and flavor.

Planifolia is more generically known as Bourbon vanilla. It originated in Mexico where vanilla cuttings were taken in the 1800ís and grown by the French in large plantations. Bourbon vanilla is perhaps the most recognisable flavour that we know and love from Ice Cream, desserts and drinks. This type of vanilla is extremely popular and is widely considered to be the best vanilla. Its aroma is described as being woody, oily and leathery. Bourbon vanilla is mainly grown in Madagascar, Uganda and India.


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