A few tidbits and tips about the world's most popular flavor...
A teaspoon or so of vanilla in Italian tomato sauces or Mexican chili helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes.
For best results when using our extracts, add them at the end of the cooking process or cream them with butter for baking.
To taste for yourself the difference between Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, Mexican Vanilla and Tahitian Vanilla, whip up some whip cream. Just substitute in the different extracts for each batch. Ice cream and custards would also show off the delicious subtleties of each vanilla (though it would be a bigger undertaking).
Outside The Kitchen
A few drops of vanilla in a can of paint will help eliminate the unpleasant odor.
A vanilla bean under your car seat gives a fresh aroma and helps eliminate musty odors.
Vanilla extract is used by veteran fishermen to mask the smell of their hands so the fish won't detect them.
Vanilla beans are hand-pollinated on family farms.
The curing process, which involves drying the beans in the sun by day and allowing them to sweat in a box at night, can take three to six months. The beans get hot enough in the sun to actually burn your hand.
Each vanilla flower opens for only one part of one day during the season. If it's not pollinated on that day, no pod will be produced.
The entire vanilla-cultivation process, from planting to market, can take from five to six years.
In Mexico, vanilla was originally pollinated by a tiny native bee called the Melipone.
Montezuma, Emperor of the Aztecs, greeted Cortez the conqueror in his banquet hall with a chocolate drink, Chocolatl (or Xocolatl), made of ground corn, cacao beans, honey and vanilla pods. While Cortex greatly enjoyed the drink, Montezuma was nonetheless executed shortly after.
The Spaniards called the plant "vanilla" which means "little scabbard".
Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing vanilla to the United States in the late 1700s. While serving as Ambassador to King Louis XVI of France, he became familiar with vanilla beans and brought 200 vanilla beans back with him when he returned to the United States.
George Washington liked vanilla ice cream and kept two pewter ice-cream pots at Mount Vernon during his presidency from 1789-1797.
Dolley Madison created a sensation when she served vanilla ice cream as a dessert in the White House at the second inaugural ball in 1812.