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elfkin

Vanilla Anyone?

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What is the deal with vanilla flavoring and pure vanilla extract? I have been buying vanilla that is specifically marked "gluten-free Vanilla". But a lot of products that say they do not contain gluten list vanilla as an ingredient. Is vanilla okay? Is flavoring no, but pure extract yes? I am confused. :unsure:

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McCormicks Vanilla is gluten free as it is make from synthetic alcohol. I always use it. Hope that will help

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Guest BERNESES

Oh hez- you're smart! Apparently, pure vanilla extract is fine but some of the imitatin vanilla flavorings contain gluten. I don't know which ones specifically. I use McCormick's too when I'm baking and it's fine.

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Never found a vanilla or vanilla flavoring with gluten. The worry used to be that the alcohol used to extract it might come from wheat. But the alcohol, when it has it, is distilled.

richard

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Guest BERNESES

I think there was some concern that the vanilla flavoring (not pure vanilla) may sometimes have gluten in it. I have never seen one either though. But, as always, it never hurts to check. :)

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I'm not saying everybody should do this, but I've been gluten-free for more than four years. When there's an ingredient that I've NEVER found or even heard of having gluten, I'm not as skittish about it as I used to be. If I'm somewhere and I'm faced with a food or product that I know is almost always or always gluten-free, and the only allegedly "suspect" ingredient is vanilla or artificial color or some such, I eat it. I don't do that with MFS or natural flavor (even though they in fact almost never hide wheat).

richard

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Vanilla is really easy to make! My husband and I went to Tahiti a few years ago for a much needed vacation. I wished I had known I was Celiac prior so that I could have enjoyed it more.

However, Tahiti has many vanilla plantations and of course, as I love gardening, I just had to visit them. I purchased some of their vanilla beans and asked hundreds of questions about growing vanilla. Tahiti has no pestacides allowed in their country so everything is fairly organic. Now each year I grow my own vanilla plant from the seeds from the year priors harvest (which is a little difficult and I have to grow it indoors as I live in the high desert). It takes about 90 days to mature, but I would be happy to grow a few extra seeds this year and mail them out to you guys if you would like.

Anyhow, to make your own, for sure gluten-free vanilla, all you do is purchase a bottle of rum, wash the whole vanilla bean real well and drop it into the bottle. Put it at the back of the pantry for three months and POOF, a whole bottle of vanilla pops out. This makes a wonderful present as we all know how expensive real vanilla is, but you can easily make a gallon of vanilla for the cost of the rum (Under $35).

If you are interested in some of the organic vanilla beans I got in Tahiti, which has got to be the sweetest vanilla I have ever had. Please let me know. I won't be able to start growing the plants for a few months, growing takes 90 days and the correct drying of them takes another few weeks, sometimes a month. If your temps ever dip below 70°, you too will have to grow it indoors. It is a vine so you will need to trellis it, but there are many pretty trellis on the market these days. You will also have to do the pollination with a paint brush and you must do all the flowers in one day as that is how long the flowers are open. If you miss that one day, you will miss the whole harvest. One vine produces about 20 beans (after you pinch most of them off) so that the beans you end up with will grow a nice large size.

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Anyhow, to make your own, for sure gluten-free vanilla, all you do is purchase a bottle of rum, wash the whole vanilla bean real well and drop it into the bottle. Put it at the back of the pantry for three months and POOF, a whole bottle of vanilla pops out. This makes a wonderful present as we all know how expensive real vanilla is, but you can easily make a gallon of vanilla for the cost of the rum (Under $35).

How many beans to how much rum... and how do you pic a good rum? How do you pick a good bean?

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One bean, one bottle. I use a bottle that is 750 ml. The beans average in length of about 4"-5". As I grow them myself, the ones that make it to maturity are always good. The drying process is key to a good bean. When I dry my own, I "milk" them. Meaning each day I start at the bottom of the bean and massage it upwards. The final dried bean is soft and bendable. I have some beans that I dried two years ago and use these by cutting or grating them up for some dishes and they are still soft.

Commercial companies however that sell whole beans some use chemicals for drying, others use high heat to dry them, some use both. When purchasing a whole bean, find out how that company prepared the whole bean. Commercial companies also remove the bean so you can't grow your own, or they were iradiated to allow longer shipping times to the manufacturer. If this is the case, the final product will not grow a plant.

As far as quality rum, you don't have to purchase a high quality rum as it is only a base for the vanilla bean to do its thing in. Though my husband is known to pour himself a glass of vanilla rum, I just use it for cooking.

Just make sure you don't use a sour mash (grain) rum. This is known as whisky, but many companies call a blend rum, rum so you yet again must check the ingredients to make sure you are not purchasing a blended rum.

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One bean, one bottle. I use a bottle that is 750 ml. The beans average in length of about 4"-5". As I grow them myself, the ones that make it to maturity are always good. The drying process is key to a good bean. When I dry my own, I "milk" them. Meaning each day I start at the bottom of the bean and massage it upwards. The final dried bean is soft and bendable. I have some beans that I dried two years ago and use these by cutting or grating them up for some dishes and they are still soft.

Commercial companies however that sell whole beans some use chemicals for drying, others use high heat to dry them, some use both. When purchasing a whole bean, find out how that company prepared the whole bean. Commercial companies also remove the bean so you can't grow your own, or they were iradiated to allow longer shipping times to the manufacturer. If this is the case, the final product will not grow a plant.

As far as quality rum, you don't have to purchase a high quality rum as it is only a base for the vanilla bean to do its thing in. Though my husband is known to pour himself a glass of vanilla rum, I just use it for cooking.

Just make sure you don't use a sour mash (grain) rum. This is known as whisky, but many companies call a blend rum, rum so you yet again must check the ingredients to make sure you are not purchasing a blended rum.

Wow 1 bean does 750ml???? I would not grow them, so haveing the seed would not matter. I do grow some of our foods, just do not feel like adding another gardening job at this stage.

I'll drop in Wild Oats and see if they have any beans...

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I found some Tahitian beans on the net today at:

http://www.vanillafromtahiti.com/vanillabeans.html

I guess that the short beans would work as these are the size I tend to end up with when I grow them myself. I think the AC impacts the growth as in the summer, that room is kept at a constant 68° which is a little cold for the plants.

You might think it is a little spendy, but when you consider how much real vanilla you end up with, the cost is pennies in comparison.

As a side note, I have made vanilla olive oil (always use extra virgin as non extra virgin olive oil is blended oil and you might be getting an oil you don't want). I use this as a flavoring in oriental dishes and it is a great flavor with some white fishes as well. I have yet to try vanilla vinegar however, I might have to give that a try this year as well.

The beans from Tahiti are very fragrant and packed with tons of flavors. Again, I think this boils down to how they dry them. The are the ones who taught me to "milk" dry the beans in natural sun light.

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I make my own vanilla too but with potato vodka. I never thought of growing my own vanilla!!!

Please give directions/instructions on what they like/don't like (besides living in your desert)...thanks!!!!!

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You have to have a good bean from the pod to start with, they look like green beans really until they are dried which is when they take on the dark color.

As such, you also should understand that the vanilla plant is an orchid.

Where ever you grow your plant, make sure the temperature stays on average of around 70°. Temps over 85° will fry the plants and much under 70° will retard the growth of the bean pods.

Thus to start you will need a good sized pot. I grow mine in 2-5 gallon pots.

A trellis. These plants can get large so a trellis of at least 4' tall works great.

Good soil, again this is an orchid, so I get special orchid blend soil from a reputable green house. If you purchase potting soil from a store like Home Depot, make sure you take a good look at it as it sometimes contains insect eggs which you won't want if growing indoors. I sometimes bake the potting mix at 400° for 30 minutes in the oven. This dries the soil up and kills the insect eggs, so take a spray bottle filled with water and re-moisten the soil. If you start with a good soil, you won't have to feed it at all through the growing phase.

Next, fill your pot with the soil, then push the trellis into the side that will be against a wall. Sometimes, depending upon the weight of the trellis I have to stake it from the back with bamboo stakes.

Now, make a small hole and plant two vanilla beans into the soil. Keep the soil moist, it is easy to over water orchids, so take care that the soild is always moist, but not wet and don't allow it to ever fully dry out.

Your vine should spring out of the soil within 4-6 weeks. As it grows train it to the trellis. Your plant will not flower until the vine stops growing. Sometimes I get a vine that just like to grow and grow, to stop this, I simply prune it.

The vanilla vine will flower only once and the flowers will remain open for less than 24 hours. Thus you will need to ensure the flower is pollinated the day the flower opens. To do this indoors you can take a small artists paint brush and do the work of bees. Even if you grow it out doors, it is important that you pollinate these flowers the day they open. If mother nature doesn't get them pollinated you will be left with no vanilla beans, don't leave pollination to the chance of bees, take a small, soft artists paint brush and do it yourself.

I allow the plant to start making as many beans as it can in each cluster, but once they start growing well, I prune each cluster down to about 4-5 beans per cluster. The more beans you allow per cluster, the smaller the ripe beans will be, the fewer you allow per cluster, the larger the bean will be at harvest.

Each vine is capable of over 1,000 flowers, don't kill yourself and try to get them all, just get as many as you can or care to. The Vanilla pods average they say at about 8" each, I have yet to grow one larger than 7", but this might be due to the temps in that room. I grow them in my music room and keep the room at a constant 68° for my piano.

Pick the vanilla pods once they have stopped growing or have reached the size you want them to be. I collect them on clean cotton sheets. Dunk them into hot water and quickly remove them back to the sheet. By day you allow them to dry in the sun, at night wrap them back up in the sheet. You don't want them to get wet in this phase from rain, so take care on bad weather days.

If allowed to simply sit by day in the sun, they can take 2-6 months to turn the correct dark brown shade. If you "milk" them. Meaning when you set them out in the sun, bring with you another cotton sheet and gently massage each bean from the bottom up and toss them onto the new drying sheet. Depending on the temperatures outside (about 80-90° in my region) it takes about a month for them to lose all green color. I did have a batch last year take nearly three months to fully turn and that drove me crazy as it is quite a bit of work, but sooooooo worth it in the end. Place the finished vanilla bean pods in airtight containers until you use them.

Once they are dried (don't worry about the white film they develop while drying, this is what gives them the vanilla flavor and is important to the outcome, it isn't mold, it is "sweating" from the inside of the plant. "Milking" them is what assists this process.

Don't go crazy and plant ten plants unless you have helpers on the day of pollination and helpers in the drying phase. The daily milking from ten plants will take you several hours and must be done every day to keep the "sweating" process going so that you produce that great vanilla flavor.

On the market, my 2-3 plants produce about 100-200 vanilla pods each so that equates to several thousand dollars worth of vanilla pods and about $21,000 worth of pure vanilla if I were to sell it. I don't sell it, but do give vanilla products away at holiday time.

I then toss the potting soil into the flower gardens outside and wash the pots out for storage till the following year. If you live in a warm climate or keep your house around 70° all year, there is no reason you can't exchange the soild and start again if you like. I use a small utility knife and carefully cut open the dried pods to collect the seeds for next year. I have had some not produce a plant, so now I collect a few seeds from many of the vanilla pods.

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Thanks!!! Very cool. I may start mine indoors then finish outside--my husband is very dilligent about keeping my plants watered.

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Do not use vanilla from MEXICO! They use a plant that is toxic but tastes like vanilla. Or at least be very, very careful:

Courmarin

Coumarin is a the bad guy of the vanilla industry. It is derived from the Brazilian tonka bean from Dipteryx ordorata, a tree. The bean can be used to make flavoring very similar to vanilla. Sadly the concoction is dreadfully toxic and can cause liver damage and is a know carcinogen.

Coumarin is used extensively in synthetic vanillas manufactured in Mexico. The U.S. banned imports of the coumarin laced products back in the 1950's. Unfortunately the products still make their way into the U.S.

If you purchase any Mexican vanilla make sure it is clearly labeled "courmarin free".

I just saw the Good Eats episode on vanilla and he said, according to US law, Vanilla extract must be X% of alcohol and Y% of vanilla (forget what X and Y are). That's it. Now, artificial vanilla extract can be made from other things that contain vanillinin, like wood. Yes, wood contains vanillinin that's how wine can have a vanilla flavor to it.

Here's a link about vanilla: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/vanilla.htm

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