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With its pretty and extravagant flowers, the vanilla is unmistakably an orchid. Real vanilla can easily be distinguished from artificially produced vanillin by its diverse and intense aroma. Vanillin can be produced more cheaply from wood waste, e.g. from the paper industry. In the artificial aroma, however, one misses the diversity of the components of real vanilla…
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- Ingredients, smell and taste
- Use and preparation
Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) is an orchid family (Orchidaceae) and a climbing plant. As a liana, it can be up to ten meters long. It climbs up in the trees at the natural site. Their leaves are dark green and smooth. The elongated fruits (fruit spices) used as spices develop from the light yellow flowers. Colloquially, the vanilla fruit is often referred to as “pod”, which is wrong in the botanical sense. It is actually a capsule (opening fruit) that is harvested immature (green). The orchid fruits are up to 20 centimeters long and are flat. The plant does not bear fruit until the fourth year. The green vanilla capsules undergo a fermentation process that turns them black-brown and gives them their typical vanilla flavor.
The home of the plant is in the tropical areas of South America and the Caribbean. Today's main growing area is Madagascar. The term “bourbon vanilla” comes from the fact that today's Reunion Island - an important growing area for vanilla - belonged to the French in colonial times and was called “bourbon”. Bourbon vanilla is a particularly fine, aromatic commercial variety from Madagascar, the Comoros and Reunion. The so-called Tahitian vanilla (Vanilla tahitensis) is rarely found in stores. It has a slightly different, flower-like aroma and is botanically closely related to real vanilla (Vanilla planifolia). Both whole fruits (“pods”) and ground vanilla are available in stores.
Note "Vanilla sugar" does not contain real vanilla, but artificially produced vanillin.
Ingredients, smell and taste
The sweet and spicy aroma of vanilla is unmistakable. The vanillin contained in the essential oil is responsible for this. However, it is bound in the unfermented fruit as an odorless vanillosid. The vanillin is only released from this chemical bond through fermentation and can develop its typical aroma. Under the influence of light, air and heat, the plant's own enzymes become active and “liberate” the vanilla aroma. The vanillin content varies depending on the origin of the fruit.
Artificial vanillin can be produced more cheaply from wood waste, e.g. from the paper industry. In the artificial aroma, however, one misses the variety of components that make real vanilla so unique.
Note With its relatively high water content (approx. 20 percent), vanilla can quickly rot or mold.
Use and preparation
Along with cinnamon, vanilla is probably the most common spice used in desserts. It is used in cakes, tarts and many other baked goods. The vanilla crescents, which are very popular at Christmas time, are typical. Various desserts and milk preparations such as pudding, yogurt, curd cream, ice cream, shakes etc. are mixed with vanilla. Even the Aztecs appreciated the taste of vanilla in combination with cocoa.
Their delicate aroma also goes well with fish, seafood and meat, for example in a sauce. For processing, the vanilla fruit is slit open lengthways and the fruit pulp and seeds are scraped out. Capsules that have been scraped out can still be used and, for example, boiled in milk. Real vanilla fruits are best kept airtight, which is why small glass tubes with plastic stoppers are ideal.
Tip It is best to put the scraped fruits in sugar, so you get your own real vanilla sugar.