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Frequently Asked Vanilla Questions

Were does Vanilla come from?

Vanilla has an amazing history. Vanilla is a flavor derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla. It’s the only fruit-bearing orchid out of the hundreds of orchid species. The name “vanilla” comes from the Spanish word “vaina”, meaning “little pod” The Mesoamerica people cultivated the vine of the vanilla orchid, called tlilxochitl by the Aztecs. (who had over-ran them) Spanish
conquerer Hernando Cortez is credited with introducing (plundering) both vanilla and chocolate to Europe in the 1520s

The Flat-Leaved Vanilla planifolia is the main orchid used for industrial food production. The variety grown in Tahiti is its own species called Tahitiensis. PNG where our vanilla comes from is a very large grower of Tahitiensis. Today Vanilla can only grow up to 20 degrees north and south of the Equator, the orchids are currently grown in these main areas of the world; Mexico, the Bourbon Islands,The Bourbon Islands have been renamed today. Called the Reunion Tahiti, Indonesia, India, Uganda, and Papua New Guinea. They are hand pollinated, hand harvested and hand cured by farmers in a process that takes anywhere from 13 to 14 weeks with each region producing vanilla pods with distinctive flavours and characteristics

Can I substitute Vanilla Products?

We often get asked “Can I use Vanilla Paste instead of Vanilla Pods? Can I use Vanilla Powder instead of Vanilla Pods? Can I use Vanilla Extract instead of Vanilla Pods?” And all other combinations! Simply yes you can, the results may differ, but in a squeeze (and a baking frenzie) you may wish to use what’s on hand. So when you’re looking at a recipe that’s asking for a particular amount of Vanilla Extract and you’re thinking “well I know I have Vanilla Paste in the pantry”, well here’s some simple guidelines to amounts you can use when substituting Equagold Vanilla in its different forms.

When using Pure Vanilla Pods for a recipe use the conversion below

1 Vanilla Pod = ¼ teaspoon Equagold Vanilla Paste. Equagold Paste is highly concentrated. Most others require at least a teaspoon

¼ teaspoon Vanilla Paste = 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Powder can be used as a substitute when Extract or Pods are required

Organic Vanilla Sugar can be used 50/50 with castor sugar to give a vanilla ingredient in the recipe, and then you don’t have to use any Vanilla Extract.

How do I use a Vanilla Pod?

Make sure you have the fresh, plump Vanilla Pod firmly anchored down/held in placed. You can used your fingers for this or if you prefer you can try a pushpin. Then simply cut the pod lengthwise with the tip of a sharp knife. With the open pod on a choppin baord you ‘scrap the blade along the pod “collecting” the seeds. Tips: Keep the presure even and angle the blade so it won’t ‘cut’ the pod when its supposed to be scrapping. It’s sometimes easier to use the blunt knife for the scrapping. You can place the seeds on a teaspoon and scrap again if you can see that you have missed a patch.

Got any left overs? Save any unused portion (seeds and pod skin) of the Vanilla Pod in the Equagold resealable packaging or a airtight container for future use.

Use the Seeds and Save the pod. If you have Vanilla Pods that have dried out
– Don’t Throw them away. You can use Vanilla Pod ‘skins in multiple ways.

Add the Spilt and de-seeded pods skins to:

  • Boiling milk to infuse it with a vanilla flavour
  • Boiling/heated liquids to infuse it with a vanilla flavour
  • A canister of sugar, the scent and flavour infuse the sugar. Wonderful with baking
  • A canister of salt, the scent and flavour infuse the sugar. Delicious with Salmon
  • Dry the pod completely, then grind it in a spice grinder. Use this powder in baked goods and desserts
  • Got a whole bunch? Place them in some Vodka to extract… or flavour the vodka!

How do I store my Vanilla Pods

Vanilla Pods must be stored in an airtight container (so they don’t dry out) They are best stored on a cool, dark, dry cupboard. Do not refrigerate.

My Vanilla Pods have dried out, can I still use them?

If you do have Vanilla Pods that have dried out, they will feel stiff, hard and unusable. Don’t fret you can rescue the valuable seeds to use later by placing them in a dish, adding some boiling water to cover them. Let them soak and they will plump up again. (Usually takes 24hrs – 48hrs) Then either use immediately or dry them carefully to be stored and used another time.

You can also keep them in the liquid and use that ‘vanilla water in jams or stewed fruits.

Why is Vanilla so expensive? 

Did you know that vanilla is the second most expensive spice on the planet? The main reason for the expensive price tag is supply and demand. Vanilla is grown in third world areas 20 degrees either side of the equator. Outside of Mexico each flower has to be hand pollinated. Typically a farmer might have 100 plants and five plants will produce 1kg of cured pods. If the price goes down they don’t harvest them because it’s easier to grow cocoa or coffee. Complicated actually. Then there’s the middlemen. Then the exporter… and then “us”. Vanilla is a very labour and time intensive product to produce. The vanilla orchid (flower) has to be pollinated by hand within a small window of time. (only in it’s originating country of South America can it be polinated naturally with native humming birds and one bee species) The Vanilla is then stored in wooden crates to undergo a fermentation process. The beans are then
wrapped in cloth and sun dried daily for three – four weeks until an optimal moisture is reached. This whole process taking 13 -14 weeks in total cannot be speed up without jeopardizing the flavour and fulness of the Vanilla Pod. Extract is made from lower grade pods which are less expensive.

Do you use Equagold products? …let us know if you have more questions or any feedback and we always revel in seeing your happy endings posted online

Frequently Asked Vanilla Questions
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Frequently Asked Vanilla Questions
How do I use, store, scrape, my Vanilla Pods? Can I substitute Vanilla Products? Things you can do with your de-seeded vanilla beans
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