It’s a vanilla bonanza thanks to Culinary Contributor Laura Kurella. Her experimentation with vanilla gives you three fabulous recipes to work with. Laura recently received the Michigan Press Association’s award for Best Columnist in 2018. We’re proud to have her writing for The Food Channel. She’s also a previous recipient of the Best Feature award from the Hoosier State Press Association. —Editor
Known as one of the most favored flavors in the world, vanilla is not a spice easily had. After being carefully cultivated, fresh bean pods have to be scalded then fermented before they can be dried and aged for three months to achieve their extraordinary flavor that is truly a gift from God!
Used first as a medicinal, which included anything from a stomach ulcer to sedation, vanilla has since been used to treat intestinal gas and fever, hysteria, and has served as an aromatic stimulant and aphrodisiac.
Earthy, aromatic, exotic and erotic, Madagascar has long been lauded as the prime source for vanilla. Helping to uphold Madagascar’s vanilla valued reputation is oldest and largest exporter in Antalaha, Madagascar—the Madagascar Vanilla Company (MVC), a now fourth generation company committed to the preservation of quality, taste and surety of excellence in all the Madagascar vanilla products.
“MVC focuses great attention on education and instruction on vanilla care and preparation to ensure that we will continue to produce a most excellent vanilla,” said MVC spokesperson, Chris Rosenkrans. “We choose to maintain that commitment, which is vital to producing a high-quality vanilla.”
Sending about 150-200 tons of vanilla to the world’s spice and flavor markets every year, MVC is currently transitioning to expand into the direct-to-consumer market, providing everyone the ability to purchase their prime Madagascar products directly, which have historically been sold exclusively to importers and distributors!
The smartest thing to do with vanilla is to make your own extract so you know exactly what’s in it. I use nothing but top-shelf ingredients—Madagascar vanilla beans and Ketel One—because if you want an “off-the-charts” vanilla, you cannot go cheap!
Here now are some aromatic ways to indulge in vanilla’s virtues!
- 6-8 Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans*
- 1 pint bottle (1.5 cups) top-shelf vodka**
- 1 pint-size glass container with tight-fitting lid/cap
- 2 whole Bourbon Vanilla beans
- 1 cup good bourbon
- 3/4 cup half & half
- 2 teaspoons sugar or sweetener
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Optional whipped cream topping
- Optional cinnamon
- 1 Using a knife and a cutting board, slit vanilla beans lengthwise to expose inner seed chamber.
- 2 Place cut beans into glass container. Once all beans are in, fill container with the vodka until completely filled. Close container and cover with a towel or sock to prevent light from penetrating.
- 3 Place container on the top of refrigerator if possible and let marinate for at least 1-2 months before using, discarding beans.
- 4 *Grade A beans are longer and moist, but Grade B beans while less pretty, are less expensive and usually recommended for making extract, so if you’re trying to cut back on cost, definitely go with B grade!
- 5 **On average, most recommend using approximately 4 to 6 beans per cup of alcohol.
- 1 Split vanilla beans lengthwise then place in a covered jar.
- 2 Pour Bourbon over vanilla beans, cover, and store for a month or two before using.
- 3 Discard beans before using.
- 1 Heat milk to just below boiling point, approximately 1-1/2 minutes in microwave safe measuring cup.
- 2 Stir in sugar or sweetener then vanilla. Garnish with whipped topping and cinnamon, if desired.
- 3 Serve immediately.