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Old 12-05-2005, 03:30 PM   #1
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Post Vanilla Extract

Whats a good substitue for vanilla extract? something that doesnt contain alchol, pork and other animal derived ingredients ...

anyone know?


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Old 12-05-2005, 03:49 PM   #2
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HI Welcome to the family.
I'm sure someone will be along to answer your question soon.

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Old 12-05-2005, 04:13 PM   #3
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Could you just use a whole vanilla pod (as well you can make vanilla sugar from the empty pod once you have scraped out and used the seeds), as opposed to vanilla extract?

Welcome to DC Iman

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Old 12-05-2005, 04:16 PM   #4
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The obvious solution would seem to be using vanilla pods instead of vanilla extract - which is really only the pods being soaked in alcohol - ie an infusion.

The alcohol is only used as a preservative and you can make your own. When alcohol is heated, it evaporates completely, leaving only the flavour behind.

To reassure you about the preparation of vanilla pods, this is how it's done:
Immature fruit is dark green in colour. Harvest when they are pale yellow at the distal end. Once they turn fully yellow and start splitting, quality is reduced. Curing is done by blanching in boiling water for two minutes. Place pods on a drying surface, such as a wool fabric, in the morning sun. At noon, roll them in the wool, permitting them to sweat. Place in an airtight jar overnight. Repeat the same procedure until pods become brown and have the vanilla fragrance, about 20-25 days. Discard any beans that become mouldy. Help prevent mould by rubbing the beans dry with a cotton cloth each day. A perfectly dried pod should be able to be twisted onto the fingers. Wrap dried pods in cellophane or greaseproof paper and store in an airtight container to develop fullest flavour and aroma.

To Make Vanilla Essence: Cut 2-3 vanilla pods lengthwise, then cover in vodka (or brandy or rum for a slightly different flavour). If they are too hard to cut easily, soak first in the vodka until softened. Leave for at least 2 weeks (a month is better) and strain before using. You may like to keep topping up with vodka as the vanilla is used, but eventually the flavour will deteriorate. If the bottle is shaken several times in the first week, the extraction process is accelerated.
To Make Vanilla Extract: Percolate alcohol and water through the chopped, cured beans, in a similar way to making coffee. I daresay you could use just water, but you won't get the full strength of flavour.

Or, if you're really against the idea of alcohol, try making Vanilla Sugar. It's easy, and you get the vanilla flavour you want.

To Make Vanilla Sugar:
Cover 1-2 vanilla beans with ordinary sugar and leave in an airtight container for at least one month before using. If the beans are always completely covered, they will last for years. Use vanilla sugar in sweet dishes.

You can use Heliotrope flowers to add a vanilla flavour to dishes such as custards. However, experts vary in their opinion about whether heliotrope flowers are toxic or not! I've eaten them, and I've lived to tell the tale. The flavour is very, very mild.

The berries of Saw Palmetto have a vanilla-nutty flavour.

The leaves of Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus) can be used as a substitute for vanilla. But they should only be used in moderation.

The flowers and leaves of Sweet Woodruff taste and smell like vanilla. It's usually used to flavour teas, but you could use the 'tea' (infusion) as part of the liquid content in many recipes.

Sweet Vernal Grass
(Anthoxanthum odorata, Hierochloe odorata) is often called Vanilla Grass. The leaves are most often used to give a vanilla flavour to vodka.

You could hunt up a product called
Fiori di Sicilia, which is a combination of citrus and vanillin. Not easy to get!

You might find this site helpful. There is reference to a vanilla product which does not use alcohol.

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Old 12-05-2005, 04:20 PM   #5
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I searched for vanilla substitute on the internet and came across something called Fiori de Sicilia. The website I found it on mentioned that some cooks have used it instead of vanilla. I'm sorry, however, that I can't tell you if it meets your requirements. You also might look at vanilla.com to see if it has any helpful hints for you.

Hope you find something!
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Old 12-05-2005, 04:22 PM   #6
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Looks like Daisy is faster than I! (or is it me?)

Has anyone ever used the Fiori di Sicilia?
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Old 12-05-2005, 06:10 PM   #7
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I've used the Flora, and it's wonderful, but it's not vanilla.

Iman, try checking a good health food store; Whole Foods, I know, carries a pure vanilla extract that has no alcohol in it.
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Old 12-05-2005, 07:42 PM   #8
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To extract the flavor from vanilla beans you need either alcohol or fat since vanillan (the flavor extracted from vanilla beans) is alcohol soluble. Many flavors that are alcohol soluble are also, to a lesser degree, soluble in fat. That is why you can split, scrape, and then steep a vanilla bean in warm milk/cream (about 180ºF) for about 30-minutes or so to extract part of it's vanilla flavor. That also explains why vanilla beans that have been steep for 30-minutes or so in milk can then be rinsed, dried, and placed into sugar to make vanilla sugar - the extraction is not complete.

I don't know where "on earth" you live - but in the US any vanilla "extract" will contain 2%-40% alcohol. If you want an approximation of the vanilla flavor without alcohol or animal derived product (such as steeping the beans in milk) look for something labeled "Imitation Vanilla" or "Artificial Vanilla Flavoring". These are NOT vanilla - but "approximations" of a portion of the vanillan flavor components (kind of like playing 2 notes of a 5 note chord) - derived from wood pulp or coal tar processing. These should be halal.
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Old 12-06-2005, 03:52 PM   #9
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Michale is right about the alcohol being used to extract flavor, not to preserve the product. See here

And alcohol doesn't evaporate completely when merely heated*, so you'd best not try making your own if you want to be careful.

Cooks Illustrated taste testers likes artificail vanilla as much as real, surprisingly enough, so that's what I'd go with.

* here's the table that GB posted previously:

The percentage is how much alcohol is retained.

alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat 85%
alcohol flamed 75%
no heat, stored overnight 70%
baked, 25 minutes, alcohol not stirred into mixture 45%
Baked/simmered dishes with alcohol stirred into mixture:
15 minutes cooking time 40%
30 minutes cooking time 35%
1 hour cooking time 25%
1.5 hours cooking time 20%
2 hours cooking time 10%
2.5 hours cooking time 5%

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