BOTANICAL NAME: Vanilla Fragrans, syn V. planifolia
FAMILY NAME: Orchidaceae
Aroma and Flavour:
Real vanilla is highly fragrant, with an exotic and memorable aroma. On our travels around north- east Madagascar, we were always surprised by the heady scents that wafted out of villages as we approached them. The taste reflects the smell, with a soft, flowery mellowness.
One of the finest flavours, used almost exclusively in sweet cookery, vanilla is added to cakes, ,biscuits, puddings and desserts. It is used to flavor confectionery, and has a special affinity to chocolate. (in Madagascar there is a good quality chocolatier called ‘Roberts’ who makes delicious dark chocolate slabs and truffles, and they all have real vanilla as an important ingredient).
Vanilla is one the distinctive ingredients in creme de cacao and Galliano, two popular liqueurs.
Medicinal and other use:
Vanilla is used as a pick me up, and an antidote to fevers. It is also associated with aphrodisiac qualities, and is used in perfume productions.
Store one vanilla pod in in a jar of sugar (usually caster sugar), allowing 3 or 4 weeks for the full flavour to permeate the sugar fully, and just top up the jar with more sugar as required. This gloriously flavoured vanilla sugar is marvelous in cakes, biscuits, sweet pies, ice creams, and milk puddings. a good quality pod, with plenty of vanillin crystals, will remain potent for as long as four years!
Natural vanilla flavouring, extract or essence is made by finely shopping the beans or pods and infusing them by dripping alcohol on the pieces. Inferior pods are used; they may not be fgood enough for selling whole, but their flavour is fine. Madagascar bourbon is one example of a title given to superior vanilla flavouring.
Artificial vanilla essence or flavouring is light years away from the true flavour of vanilla. The flavour is synthesized from wood pulp waste, coal tar or coumarin, which is banned in many countries. Substantial quantities of the artificial flavouring are sold and used each year. This type of vanilla essence has a harsh flavour with a definite aftertaste.
Buy the vanilla pod or natural vanilla flavouring or essence and you will notice the difference in flavour.
For more information about vanilla, click here.