It’s hard to find a good vanilla extract that has strong, true flavor, and doesn’t cost a million bucks.
Vanilla is the most expensive spice in the world after saffron, mainly due to how manually intensive production is. The plants are pollinated by hand, and take about five years from the time they are planted before the beans are ready for market.
Popular opinion seems to be that Nielsen-Massey vanillas are some of the best. They’re carried by the likes of Williams-Sonoma and other high-end cooking shops. The company makes a handful of different kinds of vanillas, including a vanilla bean paste which I’ve been itching to try.
Penzey’s spices also carries their own brand, in a couple different strengths and varieties. Their double-strength extract has fantastic flavor, but, as of this writing, costs about $46 for a 16 oz. bottle. A steep investment for one ingredient, especially since I do a fair amount of baking.
Half of me wanted to save a few bucks, and the other half wanted to see if it would be any good. It’s gotten strong and richer over the years, and it’s definitely a work in progress. I add more beans and/or vodka once or twice a year, as needed.
This picture is a little lighter than normal, because I just added a few more beans and topped it off.
Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse�/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.