“Where does vanilla flavoring come from” is a thought that pops up in mind, and one feels compelled to think because of the soft taste and unique smell termed as “Vanilla.” However, getting the opportunity to taste another item instantly gives us the image of that particular thing in mind. However, vanilla is one of the rarest and costly flavorings that the confectionary business has to purchase now and then. Originated in the wilderness on the far side of the world; however, in the earlier days, vanilla was considered as a new spice that was encouraged to grow and was used in numerous varieties of cuisines and delicacies. Presently, the vanilla essence is readily available in every nook and corner of the shopping marts, food courts, and pharmacies across the globe. We need to know that from where vanilla originated from and the difference between the original vanilla extract and the synthetic one.
A recent survey recently stated that the vanilla flavorings used for baking might have originated from the beaver’s secretions. Furthermore, in this article, we will discuss the myths and the truth in the recent reports.
It is often discussed among the masses from where vanilla comes from. Vanilla has originated from the plant scientifically named “Vanilla.” It is essentially a trailing plant that produces elongated, slim, and lime pods. Amazingly, these pods on growing turn into a dark brown color. They comprise tiny black color beads that are ultimately taken out of the pod and are further processed to extract the vanilla flavoring. Realistically, Vanilla extracts are processed by the process of cold pressing and grinding the vanilla beans and mixing them with water and alcohol. There are plenty of other ingredients added to give vanilla the right kind of flavor and incredible fragrance. An element extracted from Beavers known as Castoreum is also considered a part of the recipe.
“Vanilla flavoring” is packaged and baked to an ultimate level. It is less likely that it might be sourced out from the anal excretions of a beaver. Meanwhile, the research survey carried out by the scientists at the zoo in New York stated that the beaver butts release Castoreum to mark their territories. Realistically, it has been “generally regarded as safe” to use in food, confectionery, medicines, and other multiple purposes as per FDA guidelines. Castoreum is like a dark brown texture and has a beautiful musky vanilla scent.
The beaver butts are very rarely used anymore as it is challenging to extract. So to meet the supply and demand across the globe the synthetic vanilla flavoring and natural vanilla flavor extracts from vanilla beans have taken over efficiently.
Making up a connection of vanilla with the beaver needs to be explained in this article. The Castoreum is a mixed sort of compound that beavers excrete to mark their territories. Perhaps it is as a result of a special diet of beavers. Fortunately, the Castoreum has a lovely odor and is used to make and develop vanilla flavoring. It must be made clear that it is neither a part of the beaver’s poo but also not from urine. It is mainly a yellowish oily fluid inconsistency that is usually secreted out from the castor sacs located adjacent to the anal glands of the beaver. Though Castoreum has never been taken as the main ingredient, it must be kept in mind that it was only added to bring out some pleasant vanilla flavors. The CDC and FDA have approved Castoreum to extract, make cuisines and candy-like baked items and ice creams. Castoreum has been used around the globe in multiple industrial businesses for more than 85 years.
Meanwhile, it is also inquired that from where the vanilla extract is taken from. The orchids are indigenous to Mexico though it has been cultivated in various equatorial regions across the globe. The vanilla is farmed and collected from numerous locations in Central America and South Africa. According to the New York Times around more than 90 percent of the world’s vanilla cultivated is from the island of Madagascar. Realistically, the vanilla crop is highly susceptible to destructive forces of climatic and weather changes.
Vanilla is a complicated crop to grow as it is considered a temperamental crop. Usually, vanilla farms contain thousands of trees, but each tree is held in reserve for a single vanilla vine. The vanilla plant typically takes up to three years to reach mellowness and bloom with flowers. Afterward, the vanilla orchid only blooms for a single day, and it must get pollinated by hand to keep it continually growing without any halt. It is also considered a costly investment and requires patience as the vanilla plants take years to yield the right crop. A single flower, if successfully pollinated, will result in a single 7-to-9-inch pod.
After the process of pollination and maturity of the plant, the collected vanilla beans are moved to be blanched, cured, and wrapped in a wool blanket. Then they are stored in dark, airtight containers to “sweat.” It can also be termed as a process of fermentation that keeps the beans warm and moist.
Merely, every day for around three months, the blankets are rolled out and laid in the sun. Afterward, they are removed from the wrapping and left to air-dry for another four to five months. Furthermore, then there comes a month of “conditioning” that involves wrapping the dried beans in wax paper. After the beans are wrapped up, then they are sold in an airtight closed box.
It is an extensive and complicated procedure that continues when the beans are land and drenched in a solution of alcohol and irrigate where the flavor compounds become soluble. Warmth is from time to time used in the pulling-out process. Still, many deem this an unnecessary and destructive step that destroys many of the additional flavor compounds generally found in pure vanilla. As a result, some manufacturers have a cold-extraction process that mechanism like cold-brewing coffee.
Synthetic vanilla is also termed imitation vanilla. It is made by bonding the vanillin molecule of the individual plant fibers taken from flowering shrubs and trees of the guaiacum genus. It takes no time to create than pure vanilla that exactly tastes like the natural one. The only difference a person can notice between pure and imitation vanilla is visiting the nearby grocery store, looking at the product insert or the ingredient label that makes it evident that the product is a natural or synthetic one.
According to a recent survey, professional confectionary chefs consider the natural extracts better overall flavor than synthetic vanilla. When preparing cold chain items like vanilla ice cream, puddings, or custards, it is recommended by the experts always to use pure stuff. Even that dishware that has minimal warmth can use pure vanilla without losing too much flavor. However, certain foods are prepared at high temperatures, such as cookies, cakes, muffins. In these items, the synthetic imitation vanilla essence can be used. It will still give the vanilla taste.
Presently, the Castoreum is not used in vanilla flavoring anymore. It has now been replaced with an organic substance called vanillin. That, as previously discussed, is an initial component of the extract of the vanilla bean. Castoreum was discontinued as beaver populations started decreasing, and the procedure of extraction was way too costly.