How To Flavor With Vanilla

basket of vanilla beans - How To Flavor With Vanilla

Melipona bee pollinating a vanilla orchard

Image Credit: Athena Rayne Anderson 2008

Vanilla is a flavoring that is extracted from orchids, primarily from the flat-leaved vanilla Mexican species.

The first endeavors to propagate or grow the vanilla orchid outside of Mexico had shown to be in vain as this particular orchid has a synergetic alliance with its natural pollinator, the Melipona bee.

At least 40 species of this bee are known, and thrive in Mexico, as well as Argentina.

Other areas were the vanilla orchid is now successfully produced, such as in Tahiti and Madagascar among other places, is entirely dependent on artificial pollination.

The magazine – “Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution” states that the vanilla orchid is one of very few crops whose production depends entirely on artificial pollination.

How To Pollinate The Vanilla Orchid

This video provides details how to successfully pollinate the vanilla orchid that produces vanilla beans! This presentation was appropriated by the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

Using Vanilla In Baking

When it comes to baking, vanilla is a very important ingredient, and there are 3 ways to use it…

  1. Vanilla Bean
  2. Vanilla Extract
  3. Vanilla Paste

Let’s examine the differences between these three and how to best use them in your baking.

Vanilla Beans

 Whole Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Whole Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans themselves provide wonderful flavor to any recipe that calls for it. The bean can cost between $7 to $13  for a small jar of two or three beans. They are a little time consuming to work with, but you will find the flavor they produce to be well worth the time.

You want to find vanilla beans that are plump and smooth with a slight shine and that are highly fragrant. Avoid overly dried beans. Using the vanilla in dessert recipes that call for it, gives the finished baked good an intense vanilla flavor that you might never want to go back to using another form of vanilla.

Be warned though, the bean can leave specks of brown throughout the baked good. To some this is great, but if you are baking a white cake, then employing the vanilla bean for such recipes may not work. That brings us to another form: vanilla extract.

Vanilla Extract

 

Vanilla extract is the common form used in baking.

To acquire the extract, the bean is mashed, and it is infused with a mixture of alcohol, a clear drinking alcohol is used, like Vodka.

Vanilla extract readily available, not only as pure, but also artificially made. The extract is simple to measure out and use in your baking.

Vanilla Paste

Pure Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste

Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Vanilla paste, though spendy (between $12 to $16 for a 4 ounce jar), is the best of both worlds when it comes to choosing between vanilla beans and vanilla extract.

Vanilla paste is the flesh of the pod scooped-out, and make available at market in small jars. So you are getting all of the flavor of the bean without all of the hassle. It will still provide those flecks of color in your baking like the actual bean does.

For vanilla paste, consult the jar to see how much to use in your recipes. It usually shows the conversions between vanilla extract and the paste.

When in doubt, gradually add to your baking, tasting after each addition to help you determine the right amount of vanilla flavor.

Which One To Use

Most recipes do call for vanilla extract but if you do decide to substitute the bean or paste for the extract, you can. One bean actually equals about three teaspoons of vanilla extract.

The next time you bake, try using vanilla beans or paste instead of the more common vanilla extract. Of course, what you decide to use depends on your personal preference.

Link Here For A Selection Of Dessert Recipes From Splendid Recipes and More

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The Kitchen Tools Needed To Achieve Healthy Cooking

The Kitchen Tools Needed To Achieve Healthy Cooking

The following video is thanks to “The Weston A. Price Foundation.” The video is themed: “Journey Back to the Kitchen” and hosted by Sarah Pope, who is a local chapter leader in Florida since 2002.

She will present the appropriate kitchen utensils to use, and the undesirable kitchen tools to toss out. Sarah Pope also blogs at The Healthy Home Economist.

The following information, video and written script is credited to “The Weston A. Price Foundation”.

INTRO

Hi Everyone, my name is Sarah Pope. You may know me from my blog TheHealthyHomeEconomist. I’ve also been a Chapter Leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation since 2002.

In the next few minutes, I’m going to talk to you about setting up your kitchen with the right equipment to prepare nutritious meals for your family. Time spent in the lost art of traditional food preparation is absolutely essential for you and especially your children to avoid the plague of degenerative illness that is sweeping across our modern culture.

You can be very encouraged that traditional cooking need not be a mind numbing chore, however! Modern equipment makes all the difference but it is important to make wise choices which can sometimes be difficult with the dazzling array of gadgets available.

I have been cooking meals for my family from scratch for over 10 years and have spent only a few hundred dollars during that entire time on equipment. Considering that I didn’t have much to start with as I rarely cooked before my children were born, that’s saying a lot!

So which appliances can be considered essential and which optional or even undesirable in your kitchen?

COOKWARE

Let’s start with cookware. Good quality cookware is a very wise investment and the most important use of your financial resources when prioritizing kitchen equipment.

You simply must get rid of any aluminum and nonstick cookware even if aimed at the gourmet market and made from high end materials. Aluminum dissolves when acidic or salty foods are cooked in it and many researchers feel that intake of aluminum is linked to a number of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

Nonstick cookware also poses a danger to your health. The chemical PFOA is used in the production of nonstick coatings and this carcinogen can get into your food and pollute the air in your home. PFOA has been linked with birth defects, cancer, and abnormal changes to vital organs.

Instead of nonstick pans, you can use a well-seasoned cast iron pan instead.

Glass, enamel, ceramic, stainless steel and titanium are all suitable materials for general purpose cookware. If you cook acidic foods frequently or suffer from heavy metal toxicity, stainless steel may not be the best choice as nickel and other alloys that are bound with iron in the making of stainless steel have been found to leech into food in small amounts.

BAKEWARE

Bakeware is another essential tool in the kitchen of an established cook. Please note, however, that aluminum bakeware does not necessarily need to be thrown out. Lining aluminum cookie sheets with parchment paper before baking protects the food from contact with the aluminum and is a good stopgap if funds for kitchen equipment are tight.

The same goes for aluminum muffin tins which can be lined with paper baking cups.

If you are in the beginning stages of putting your kitchen together, be sure to invest in stainless steel pans and cookie sheets as they really do not cost much more than aluminum pans.

When buying bread pans new, stoneware or glass are both excellent choices. Stoneware is also good for muffin tins.

STOCKPOT

A good quality stockpot made of stainless steel or enamel is a very important item to have in your kitchen. In my kitchen, I have 3 sizes, an 8 quart, a 12 quart, and a 16 quart. I use at least one of these stockpots on a weekly basis, usually making large batches of homemade broths and soups, portions of which can be frozen for fast meals at a later date.

GLASS OR ENAMEL CASSEROLES

Casserole dishes made of glass or enamel in a variety of sizes make one-dish meals an easy and nontoxic experience. I personally prefer glass dishes with lids so that leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in the same dish they were cooked in.

CUTTING BOARDS/KNIVES

Good quality knives are an obvious necessity for the person who prepares homemade meals. Serrated knives are best for cutting bread and vegetables while tempered steel knives are optimal for cutting meat. A large chopping knife is a helpful tool as well.

Cutting boards are best made of wood, which is far less likely to harbor pathogenic bacteria than ones made of plastic. Bamboo is my favorite wood for this purpose as it is a sustainable natural resource.

FOOD PROCESSORS

Food processors can be an expensive investment but there is no need to spend a fortune.

In my own kitchen, I have my Mother’s old 1950’s glass blender which still works beautifully, a small Cuisinart food processor that cost about $30 and a handheld blender.

These 3 items perform all the tasks that I require, from grinding nuts and chopping vegetables to blending smoothies.Larger and more expensive food processors are helpful, but certainly not a necessity!

FOOD/BEVERAGE CONTAINERS

Moving on to food storage containers, be aware that plastic is not the best option. Glass mason jars of various sizes are very important to have on hand for lactofermenting fruits and vegetables and for cultured dairy products that you make at home. I myself use pint, quart, and half gallon sized mason jars with regularity.

I also use small glass pyrex bowls for storage of leftovers and for lunchboxes.

Limiting the use of plastic containers in your home is wise, but large plastic jugs do seem to be best for freezing homemade stock and soups. Just be sure never to put plastic containers in the dishwasher as overly hot water breaks down the integrity of the plastic which risks leeching of contaminants into food.

Also for this reason, stock should be put into the plastic jugs after it has cooled.

Always hand wash plastic containers in warm water with a mild dishsoap.

OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT

As you gain traditional cooking experience, you may choose to add a grain grinder, an ice cream maker, or a dehydrator to your collection of kitchen equipment.

All of these appliances are optional. I myself do not have a dehydrator, preferring instead to use the convenience and size of a warm oven to dry my nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains.

I do use an ice cream maker and find this particular appliance of tremendous benefit to my family, as homemade ice cream made with grassfed cream is such a superior snack to store ice cream, even high end brands like Haagen Dazs.

Grain grinders are very helpful once you begin learning how to traditionally prepare grain based foods With a grain grinder, you can grind the flour just before you need it, ensuring that it is always fresh.

AVOID THE MICROWAVE

While popular, the microwave is not a desirable appliance to use in preparing healthy meals for your family. The small amount of research on microwaved foods is not favorable and indications are that abnormal changes to vitamin content and availability occurs when food is microwaved. The blood profiles of those who consume microwaved food is similar to the blood profiles of people in the early stages of cancer.

Microwaving milk is especially dangerous as it alters the amino acids in a manner that can be toxic to the liver and nervous system.

It is best to resist using a microwave for any culinary purpose. However, there is no need to remove it from your kitchen. It does serve as an excellent, airtight cupboard for storing birthday cakes and other freshly made baked goods.

ENDING SEGMENT

As you can see, there is no need to break the bank when setting up your kitchen for traditional cooking.

The minimum to get started is really just a high-quality saucepan and frying pan, some cutting knives and cutting boards.

The most important thing is to not let yourself get bogged down in decisions about appliances and rather just get started cooking!

A JOURNEY BACK TO THE KITCHEN VIDEO
By Sarah Pope

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Read more information on the dangers of non-stick aluminum cookware: Non Stick Ceramic Cookware versus Non Stick Teflon

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