In this crappy photo the extract on the left is beans marinating for two months in vodka, and on the right, beans marinating in gold rum for three days.Because I was trying to find out about rum's suitability for extraction, my neighbor sent me a link with an embarrassment of information about vanilla with even more links to other information. And I read something really interesting about Mexican vanilla, which I've never liked. It smells really strong, but I hate its fruitiness.
Anyway, I found out that vanilla is barely grown in its birthplace anymore, and the only real stuff is quite expensive. And what I almost certainly have had given to me is the cheap stuff they sell to tourists, which is synthetic. Now, since I'm not a truffle pig, I don't know that I could tell the difference between real and synthetic vanilla, but even so. And the super neat thing is that some of the synthetic Mexican vanilla is supplemented with coumarin.
For click-averse readers, in a nutshell, coumarin comes from the tonka bean, which tastes and smells just like vanilla, only stronger. It's a toxin and a blood thinner, which some of your loved ones may take--Hi, Grandpa! Hi, John's mom!--for heart maladies. It can also be made into warfarin, which is used to poison rats with internal bleeding. Mmm . . . so hungry . . .
So then I was feeling a little concerned that I was unwittingly poisoning my mother- and sister-in-law with the Blue Cattle Truck Mexican Vanilla I had given them for Christmas. My worries were compounded by the fact that the bottle has an egregious punctuation error on it. But thankfully, however tacky their label may be, their vanilla is coumarin-free. I haven't tasted it, because: fruity, but the lady at Kitchen Kneads raved about it.
Also, a lot of vanilla in this country is stretched out by adding corn syrup--they do that to honey, as well--to make it cheaper and longer-lasting. Which is one of the reasons I HATE HATE HATE that disgusting new ad campaign by the Corn Refiners Association. I'll have to get into it another time. But it's all the more reason to be buying real honey and making your own vanilla.