A Beginners Guide to Vanilla Extracts and Spice Blends

Jun 28, 22
A Beginners Guide to Vanilla Extracts and Spice Blends

Vanilla extracts and spice blends are two of the most essential elements in any baker’s pantry. These two types of ingredients are a must-have for home cooks who want to impress their friends with flavorful homemade desserts and entrees. Vanilla and spice are synonymous with some of our favorite dishes. Vanilla is a natural extract that comes from the vanilla bean, as well as a powder made from it. The same goes for spice blends.


Spice blends are mixes of several spices, usually used in different quantities depending on the blend. They’re both commonly used in our cooking to give foods an added boost of flavor. These two ingredients can be used together or separately in your recipes. Depending on what you’re looking for and what you have on hand, there are many kinds of vanilla and spice blends to choose from when adding them to your dishes.


Everyone has their own preference when it comes to either one of these flavors, so we decided to create this handy list with all the information you need about each one of them and our process in making extracts so you can decide if our products are perfect for you!


What is Vanilla Extract?

Vanilla extract is a common flavor enhancer used in desserts, beverages, and savory dishes. Our vanillas are sourced from many countries around the world, including Mexico, Uganda, Sri Lankan, and Hawaii to name a few. We obtain vanilla from Indonesia's Papua and Sumatra as well as Sambava, Madagascar, Yucatan, Veracruz, Sri Lanka, Tahiti Costa Rica, and Mexico Mayan, among other places.  Some vanilla beans are rare, very hard to obtain and prices can range from $10 an ounce to $50 an ounce. Vanilla beans are the second most expensive spice in the world, second to saffron. Each vanilla has its own unique flavor and aroma. Some are smoky and bold others fruity, floral, and sweeter. 


Quality grades are given to Vanilla Beans.

Are you aware of Vanilla Beans Grade A & B and even C? What does this mean? Well, grade C are vanilla beans that are not uniform in size, are usually much smaller, and are often chosen for their lower cost by people making homemade vanilla. Grade B are thinner, and have less caviar (the seeds inside the vanilla bean), dryer and is lower cost. Grade A are fat-plump, glossy with natural oils, full of vanilla caviar and do cost more as do Gourmet Grade A vanilla beans. These are the vanilla beans we’ve chosen at Gourmet Vanilla ‘n’ Spice. The best spirits, the best vanilla beans, for the highest quality vanilla extract for our customers to use in their favorite recipes.


Vanilla extract has a rich, sweet flavor that’s unmistakable. It is used to flavor a variety of foods and beverages, especially desserts. Vanilla extract is most often used in baked goods such as cakes and cookies but can be used in savory dishes like stews and curries.


What is a Spice Blend?

A spice blend is a mix of ground spices used to flavor a particular dish or recipe. These blends can be used as rubs for meat, marinades for fish, or as a seasoning for different types of vegetables. Spice blends can be used as standalone ingredients or as an addition to another recipe, often with other herbs and spices. Spice blends can be made with a variety of different spices, but each blend usually has a few staple spices that are combined in varying quantities depending on the blend. Spice blends are often labeled with a particular cuisine or region, such as “Italian” or “Chinese”.  We buy fresh spices, roast them and grind them ourselves for a full flavor and then blend them. 


Why is quality important when finding good Vanilla and Blends?

When deciding on a particular product, it is best to look for the highest quality vanilla extract or spice blend that you can find.  Every product on the market isn’t created equally and that is especially true for vanilla extract and spice blends. You can use your own judgment when it comes to deciding which one fits your needs best. More importantly, you want to make sure that the product you choose has the right ingredients and that it is made ethically.  


Why buy a premium vanilla extract?

As mentioned above, the quality of vanilla extract has a big impact on the quality of the end result. If you want your baked goods and desserts to taste flavorful and aromatic, then you need to make sure that they are made with top-quality vanilla extract. It’s important to pay attention to the ingredients that are used to make your vanilla extract, especially when it comes to choosing the alcohol content. 


You can use vanilla extract in a variety of different dishes and desserts, so it is essential to always have it on hand. It is also extremely easy to make your own vanilla extract at home, but it can be difficult finding the right type of vanilla beans. A good vanilla extract should have a rich vanilla flavor and aroma, as well as a deep brown, although some are more golden brown, in color. There are many different brands of vanilla extracts on the market, but only a handful of them are truly worth buying.


The Gourmet Vanilla 'n' Spice process of making extracts

Our process of making extracts is very extensive.  People have their own processes and the reasons are usually related to the costs of making vanilla extracts. Perhaps you’ve read of using a couple of grade B vanilla beans in a pint of low-cost vodka, and waiting a few weeks to maybe 3 months and they say you have your vanilla. What you actually have, is colored vodka, not yet vanilla. FDA has set a standard for the percentage of vanilla beans by the ounce to the ounces of alcohol used to make actual vanilla extract. We follow these standards. 


Then you may have heard and wondered why some will tie their vanilla beans into a knot and then place them in a jar. This method is so they can use the bean after their extract, to scrape the beans caviar out to use maybe in making ice cream. At Gourmet Vanilla ‘n’ Spice we slice the vanilla bean open lengthwise, exposing the caviar. We then cut off both end tips. The tips & beans are placed into the jar at the proper ounces and filled with the right ounces of alcohol. Then the jar is shaken, and stored in a cool dark location. We then shake the jar daily for the first month, it’s then rotated to another shelf where it’s shaken a few times each week. This process goes on for a minimum of 12 months. When using Bourbon alcohol, it takes a minimum of 18 months. The longer the vanilla steeps in the jar, the more it becomes deep and rich in flavor. Making quality vanilla is not only expensive, but it’s time-consuming and requires patience for the amazing end results. We started our first batches of vanillas 4 years ago, and we start a new set of vanillas every quarter to continue to have vanilla extracts.



How we make our exotic spice blends.

Our spice blends are created with premium spices to produce a flavorful experience. Whether you’re making a hearty soup or grilling a smoked salmon, our blends will add excitement and spice up any meal. And, if you’re looking for a way to add a little something special to your next dinner party, try tossing some of our blends into your next pasta dish or use them to season your next batch of roasted chicken. We guarantee that you won’t be disappointed!


They are great for adding flavor to meat and veggies, and they are also known to have health benefits. Depending on the blend, they may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, help ease digestion, and more. 


India Tandoori, Ethiopian Berbere, Morrocan Chermoula, and French Herbes de Provence are among some of the most exquisite of these exotic spice blends, with a long history. India Tandoori is a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, clove, fennel, and black pepper, often with other spices such as nutmeg or ginger. Ethiopian Berbere is a combination of many spices, but most commonly includes ginger, cardamom, and pepper.


These are just a few examples of the many different types of spices that can be used to season foods. Each one has its own distinctive flavor, and can be used in a variety of dishes. Some spices are best suited to certain types of meat, while others may be used with almost any type of food.


Historically, spice blends have also been employed to improve well-being and decrease the likelihood of certain illnesses. Cinnamon has been found to reduce insulin resistance, blood sugar levels, and blood cholesterol levels. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and even helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Ginger has anti-nausea properties and it is great for digestion.


Whether you want a flavorful meal, replicating an authentic international dish, or just looking for something that will help with your overall health, you can find it with our spice blends.


What’s not to love?



Why are these practices so important to Gourmet Vanilla ‘n’ Spice? Because it’s important to bring the highest quality vanilla to market for our customers, cutting no corners, no skimping, only the best for you and your favorite recipes, now that’s integrity. After all, you put a lot into making your recipes, you want the finest ingredients so the recipe is impressive for your family & friends. So let’s start baking and cooking, what Vanilla and Spice blend are you going to try first. 

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