your favorite brand of vanilla extract?

Joined May 23, 2002
I have been using Neilson Massey Madagascar pure vanilla extract for years but the price has skyrocketed recently. I just found out today that Trader Joe's which was the LAST place I had been able to find it at a reasonable price here in Portland, OR ($4.59 for 4 oz.) will no longer be carrying it. They are instead just using their house labeled vanilla extract which is a blend of Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla beans. I bought a bottle and tried it tonight but the jury is still out on whether I like it. What do you use? Where do you buy it? (mail order source or local place etc.) Thanks. Alison
Joined Aug 11, 2000
I heard from Penzeys that the vanilla crop took a severe beating in a tropical storm....vanilla shot up 50% within the past month.
I used to use LeRuths, now use Penzeys
Joined Jan 11, 2002
This thread gives me the opportunity of asking a question: I have noticed that you Americans seem to use only this "Vanilla extract" to get a vanilla flavour. Since I don't know it as it's probably not suitable here for home use (we can get either the whole Vanilla bean or the artificial Vanillin powder) I'd like to know if you also use the Vanilla bean and what are the pros of using the extract (of course apart from the fact you spare time!)


Joined Jun 1, 2001
Er, well, when I go to the gourmet shop, a single extra fancy vanilla bean in the cute little test tube is $12.99. A bottle of their very best Madagascar vanilla (100 mL, I think) is $22. A bottle of their not-quite-so-good but quite good enough for me vanilla is, like the bean, $12.99. A giant-sized bottle of supermarket vanilla is something like five bucks, and works fine when tossing together a quick square or cookie or whatever.

Even though I do recycle my beans by putting any unused, dried-off bits in sugar and making vanilla sugar, the math is pretty convincing. Real vanilla beans are reserved for extra-special efforts at my house.

I suppose professionals, who can get that sort of thing wholesale, aren't in quite such dire straits, but still. Yer average customer is NOT going to glare at the cheesecake and yell out, "This is not genuine Ta-HI-tian vanilla!"
Joined May 11, 2001
I currently use Penzey's.

Pongi: I've never used the vanillin powder, but I do use vanilla beans. I usually use the beans for syrups, custards and other stuff where the flavour of the bean is infused into some sort of liquid base. I use the extract for cakes, cookies and other baked goods where the vanilla is more of a flavour enhancer rather than the dominant flavour.
Joined May 23, 2002
I LOVE that vanilla bean paste but I can't use it in everything since I actually don't want the flecks to show in some of my cheesecake flavors. I will try Penzeys- never used that before-thanks!
Joined May 29, 1999
because beans are soooo expencive, i buy them by the 1/2 pound and after use i toss them into the extract bottle. in the bottle is virginia dare or another basic vanilla that is much improved with the addition of the bean.

i have made extract of my own with vodka and vanilla bean with great results!

used to love dreidopple vanilla bean powder and vanilla paste!
Joined Mar 4, 2000
The neilson Massey paste is great for uncooked desserts, or where you'd want to see the specks, but it would be a waste to bake with it. I do what mbrown does: Virginia Dare with fresh bean pods to make the flavor a bit more vivid.

I think it was Paris Gourmet who carries a nice paste, like the Dreidopple, in a big tub. Great stuff--not better or worse than extract; just different, for different applications.
Joined Mar 3, 2002
m brown, when you made your own extract in vodka, did you find that the brand, quality (i.e. price) level made any difference? Does it make any difference what the vodka is made from?

Also, I've read somewhere that when you are baking with it, that so much of the subtlety is lost that it isn't worth while using "the best." (It may have been Cook's Ill)
Joined Aug 4, 2000
Has anyone tried dropping the (used) bean into EVERCLEAR, you know, 190 proof alcohol as opposed to vodka? If so, pls describe your results.
Joined Jul 28, 2001
Down here we drop it into our mescal, it sort of shrivels a little and then streches out and dies( WAIT! I'm sorry, thats the worm, not the vanilla bean).
Actually we have some everclear in the shop(don't know why?,probably dishwasher related) I'll pop some husks in tomorrow and report back in a few days.
Joined Aug 4, 2000

Everclear is used in some optics labs to clean high quality optics because it leaves absolutely no residue on the lens' surface.

Back to vanilla bean: unheated extraction may take months to achieve full flavor.
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Nielsen Massey's Madagascar Bourbon, Mexican and Tahitian vanilla extracts, either liquid form, paste, powder and whole vanilla beans are my favorite.
Joined Nov 10, 2000
Got lots of Everclear. I paint on cakes with it.
I'll try to stick some beans in as well.
Vanilla Bean Paste- Neilson Massey
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Massys is good stuff, as is Penzlys..

To answer Pongi's question, Yes..we Americans use a great deal of Vanilla beans. To me it is one of Mother natures most precuios gifts.

I like to use my spent pods in sugar to make vanilla sugar.

I love vanilla with foie gras as well, I made a vanilla/sautern foie gras for some cheftalk friends last year and they where pretty pleased (some never had it before)

Also, try soaking your spent pods with some cherry wood and smoke some salmon or quails with it. It will blow you away
Joined May 3, 2002
We use only fresh vanilla pods, I guess what you are referring to as bean, ours come from the french Island Bourbon.
Its taste is much better then any vanilla extracts, but I don't know what kind of extracts I have used before as it was a very long time ago.
It is expensive, but not $12 per bean thats robbery!
Joined Aug 4, 2000

Since you like the vanilla/sauterne combination may I suggest substituting a good quality berenauslese for the sauterne? Just the other day I made a lemon sauce using a berenauslese; and, its sweetness and acid highlighted the lemon flavor immensely. Exquisite.
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