Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Products & Uses
Q: What is the shelf life of your vanilla extracts? How long do they last?
A: Our pure vanilla extracts have a nearly unlimited shelf life as the alcohol within the products helps preserve them. In fact, they will continue to mellow and develop flavor as they age just as a fine wine or liquor would. If, over time, the extract starts to look cloudy or you see sediment at the bottom of the bottle, this is because the flavor matter has dropped out of suspension. This is normal, and you just need to shake the bottle to put the flavoring material back into suspension.
Q: What is the shelf life of your vanilla pastes? Powders? How long do they last?
A: Our Pure Vanilla Bean Pastes and Pure Vanilla Powders will last up to 3 years.
Q: What is the shelf life of your vanilla beans? How long do they last?
A: If kept in a tightly sealed container away from heat, vanilla beans can last up to 2 years. As long as the bean has its characteristic vanilla aroma and is moist and pliable, it can still be used. If it becomes dry, brittle and "aromaless", it's time to get a new bean.
Q: What is the number on the side of your bottles? Is that the expiration date?
A: The number imprinted on the side of the bottles above the bar code is that particular product's lot number or batch number. Every time we make a batch of our products, we assign that batch a unique number. All bottles filled from that batch are stamped with that unique number. This way we have full traceability of all components and ingredients used to produce that specific batch. This number is not an expiration date though sometimes the randomly assigned lot number may end up looking like a date. Due to their extended shelf lives, we are not required to put an expiration date on our bottles but if you would like more information about how long our products last, see the questions directly preceding this one.
Q: Why do you call your extracts "pure"?
A: While "pure" is a wonderful adjective that describes our beliefs about food and food ingredients, the use of the word "pure" in this sense is actually a classification by the FDA. The FDA dictates that pure vanilla extract must contain 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of liquid and be 35% alcohol. The agency also limits the permissible ingredients beyond beans and alcohol. If interested, click here to read the FDA's definition and here for the FDA's addendum on how to determine the 13.35 ounces.
Q: What is an extract?
A: The taste and fragrance of many fruits, plants and nuts are contained in their essential oils. These oils can be "extracted" by steeping the ingredient in alcohol so that the natural oils can dissolve and be kept in suspension. We use corn alcohol because the oils aren't soluble in water. On a more technical note, the FDA dictates that the solution must be at least 35% alcohol in order to be called an "extract".
To make our own Pure Vanilla Extracts, we go a step further and use our exclusive cold extraction process instead of heat extraction. By protecting our vanilla from heat, we ensure that even its subtlest flavors survive extraction. Our process gently distills vanilla's essential oils, preserving the more than 300 distinctive flavor compounds present in the beans.
Q: What is vanilla powder? How should I use it?
A: Our Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder is simply our premium vanilla extract encapsulated on a cornstarch base. It's all-natural, alcohol-free and sugar-free. Because it's in powder form, it works well in mixes and other dry applications, such as cakes, cookies and pancakes. Or, sprinkle it on top of fruit or in beverages, such as coffees, cocoas or sodas. The powder also comes in handy for dishes that are sensitive to color and could be affected by the amber tint of our extracts. Pure Vanilla Powder can be used measure-for-measure the same as Pure Vanilla Extract in recipes. For specific recipes, click here to visit our Recipes page.
Q: Is your vanilla powder really sugar-free? What's maltodextrin?
A: Though maltodextrin's name may look like a sugar (such as dextrose), it's actually classified by the FDA as a modified cornstarch and is not a sugar. Sugar and maltodextrin are both carbohydrates. In technical terms, maltodextrin is a polymer composed of D-Glucose units. We use maltodextrin in our Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder and Pure Vanilla Powder as the base that encapsulates the pure vanilla extract.
Q: What is vanilla bean paste? What recipes call for it?
A: Our Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste is made by combining our famous Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract with vanilla pod seeds in a slightly viscous base. Use it when you want your recipe to have the added visual flair of actual vanilla seeds, such as with crème brûlée and ice cream. Pure Vanilla Bean Paste can be used measure-for-measure the same as Pure Vanilla Extract or to replace whole vanilla beans in recipes. For specific recipes, click here to visit our Recipes page.
Q: What are some suggestions for cooking with a vanilla bean?
A: Split the bean lengthwise with a sharp knife, scrape out the dark, pulpy seeds, add both the bean and seeds to a warm liquid base, such as a sauce or cream, and steep. By steeping, you'll best be able to pull out the full flavor. You can also put the whole bean in the liquid without scraping out the seeds. In this case, remove the bean when you're done. Rinse it. Dry it, and save to use again. The bean can be used as long as it has its strong characteristic aroma and is moist and pliable. Once the bean becomes dry and brittle or "aromaless", you should replace it with a new one. For specific recipes, click here to visit our Recipes page.
Q: Beyond traditional recipes for baked goods and ice creams, how else can I use vanilla? Can vanilla be used as a non-characterizing flavor?
A: More than a delicious flavor in its own right, vanilla is a very effective flavor enhancer. Used in small amounts, vanilla will intensify chocolate, coffee and nut flavors as well as just about any fruit. And that's just the sweet stuff. Because it mellows the acidic bite of tomatoes and the spicy kick of hot chilis, we like to add vanilla to BBQ sauce, salsa, chili and Italian tomato sauce.
Of course, the actual flavor of vanilla has its own place in savory dishes. Think pork roasts, duck breasts and soups. In fact, chefs love to use our vanilla as a pairing with rich seafood ingredients, like lobster and king crab. For savory recipes, click here to visit our recipes page.
Q: How should we store your vanilla products?
A: Vanilla extracts, whole beans, pastes and powders should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and away from direct heat and sunlight. Don't put in the refrigerator or freezer. For extracts, refrigeration or freezing will speed up the natural separation of the vanilla essence from the liquid base. For vanilla beans, refrigeration can quicken the growth of mold.
Q: I've seen recipes for making vanilla extract. How is your vanilla extract different?
A: While you can make a version of vanilla extract using vanilla beans and alcohol, it's not going to have the same level of flavor that you'll find in our extracts. That's because there's more to the process of making truly delicious vanilla extract than having it sit in alcohol. We carefully craft our vanilla extracts over a period of weeks intermittently soaking and rinsing the beans using precise concentrations of water and alcohol. This proprietary cold extraction process gently draws out the over 300 flavor compounds found within the vanilla beans so that the resulting extract showcases the richness and inherent flavor profile of the bean itself.
Nielsen-Massey Pure Flavor Products & Uses
Q: What is the shelf life of your flavor extracts? How long do they last?
A: Our Pure Flavor Extracts are good for up to 3 years. If, over time, the extract starts to look cloudy or you see sediment at the bottom of the bottle, this is because the flavor matter has dropped out of suspension. This is normal and you just need to shake the bottle to put the flavoring material back into suspension.
Q: What is the number on the side of your bottles? Is that the expiration date?
A: The number imprinted on the side of the bottles above the bar code is that particular product's lot number or batch number. Every time we make a batch of our products, we assign that batch a unique number. All bottles filled from that batch are stamped with that unique number. This way we have full traceability of all components and ingredients used to produce that specific batch. This number is not an expiration date though sometimes the randomly assigned lot number may end up looking like a date. Due to their extended shelf lives, we are not required to put an expiration date on our bottles but if you would like more information about how long our products last, see the question directly preceding this one.
Q: What is an extract?
A: The taste and fragrance of many fruits, plants and nuts are contained in their essential oils. These oils can be "extracted" by steeping the ingredient in alcohol so that the natural oils can dissolve and be kept in suspension. We use alcohol because the oils aren't soluble in water. On a more technical note, the FDA dictates that the solution must be at least 35% alcohol in order to be called an "extract".
Q: Coffee? Chocolate? Lemon? And more? These flavors sound great but why should I use them over the actual raw ingredient?
A: Here are three reasons: quality, consistency and prep speed. We use premium ingredients to make our pure flavors, and each bean, fruit, blossom, etc. has to meet our high standards. We also monitor the flavor profiles of each batch to make sure the taste is consistent, so you won't need to worry about common issues like bad batches, spoilage, out of season or not being ripe yet. Using our pure flavors is as simple as measuring and pouring, so you‘ll save incredible amounts of prep time. Plus, as a bonus benefit, these pure flavors, when stored properly on your shelf, can last a while, especially compared to the raw ingredients.
Q: How should we store your pure flavor products?
A: Store in an airtight container at room temperature and away from direct heat and sunlight. Don't put in the refrigerator or freezer. Refrigeration or freezing will speed up the natural separation of the ingredient from the liquid base.
Q: Where is your vanilla grown?
A: We obtain our vanilla from the world's main vanilla-growing countries. In order of vanilla production, they are: Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti. As with wine, chocolate and coffee, the vanilla from each country has its own distinctive flavor profile and characteristics as a result of the different climates, soils, curing methods and species of vanilla used. For instance, Madagascar Bourbon vanilla has a creamy, sweet flavor. Mexican vanilla, in addition to creamy and sweet notes, also has a bit of spice to it. Tahitian vanilla carries with it the fruity and flowery attributes of the islands from which it originates.
To learn more about where vanilla comes from, click here. Or, to learn how to best utilize the different types of vanillas in your cooking and baking, click here.
Q: What type of plant is vanilla?
A: The vanilla vine is actually an orchid, and, in fact, it is the only edible fruit-bearing member of the orchid family. In Mexico, Indonesia and Madagascar, the orchid is Vanilla planifolia Andrews. In Tahiti, it is Vanilla tahitensis Moore.
Q: Is there Bourbon Whiskey in your Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract?
A: No, the term Bourbon is a geographic reference to the Bourbon Islands—Madagascar, Comoro, Réunion, Seychelles and Mauritius—which are off the east coast of Africa. While there is alcohol in our extracts, the majority of this will either be cooked off during preparation or spread throughout the entirety of your dish. For instance, you may add one teaspoon of vanilla extract, which is only one-third alcohol, to an entire batch of cookies.
Q: How many harvests of vanilla beans are there per year?
A: Vanilla beans are harvested once a year in every vanilla-producing country except Uganda. Uganda is able to harvest beans twice a year thanks to its two dry seasons.
Dietary Needs & Nielsen-Massey Certifications
Q: What do the certification symbols that are on your labels mean?
A: The below image details what each symbol stands for. For more information on the certification agencies and what the certifications mean, continue reading on to subsequent questions.
Q: Are your products Allergen-Free?
A: Yes. According to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish are responsible for 90% of allergic reactions. Nielsen-Massey products are free of all of these potential allergens. This includes our Pure Almond Extract, which is nut free because it consists of bitter almond oil derived from stone fruit pits.
Q: Can Celiacs use Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla and flavor products?
A: All our products are certified Gluten-Free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO). Our Pure Vanilla and Flavor Extracts as well as our Rose Water and Orange Blossom Water are made using 100% corn alcohol while our Organic Pure Vanilla Extracts use organically certified grain alcohol. Our Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder is made using maltodextrin, a modified corn starch, and our Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste uses sugar, water, Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, exhausted bean seeds and gum tragacanth, a natural thickener. Our vanilla beans are simply beans and contain no other ingredients. As a side note, we're proud to have been the one of the first extract and ingredient suppliers in the U.S. to have received this certification.
Q: Is Nielsen-Massey Certified Organic?
A: We have been a certified organic manufacturer since 1996. Quality Assurance International certifies the following Nielsen-Massey products as Organic: Organic Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract and Organic Madagascar Bourbon Gourmet Vanilla Beans. Our Netherlands facility is certified organic by Skal, the inspection and certification agency for organic production in the Netherlands.
Q: Are Nielsen-Massey products Kosher?
A: Yes, all our products are certified by the Chicago Rabbinical Council, CRC, as Kosher Pareve. Additionally, our vanilla beans are certified Kosher for Passover.
Q: Are Nielsen-Massey products acceptable for the preparation of vegetarian and vegan dishes?
A: Yes. Our products are completely free of animal products, including eggs, dairy and gelatins.
Q: Does Nielsen-Massey offer any Fair Trade Certified™ products?
We offer Fair Trade Certified™ Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Beans, which are certified by Fairtrade Canada, a national, nonprofit Fair Trade certification organization. Fair Trade Certified™ Vanilla ensures that small-scale farmers in developing countries receive a fair price and use sustainable farming practices, stabilizing vanilla-producing communities and protecting the environment.
Q: Why is there sugar in your vanilla extract?
Sugar is actually one of five permissible ingredients, besides vanilla, water and alcohol, the FDA allows in Pure Vanilla Extract (see their definition here). It helps in the extraction process of the vanilla extract by softening the beans and making it easier to extract the flavoring material from the beans. Additionally, it helps keep the vanilla compounds extracted from the bean in suspension providing clarity to the product. Vanilla extracts that don’t use sugar or some other sweetener often look cloudy because the matter is floating around in the liquid. While other sweeteners work (and some producers even use corn syrup), we use 100% all-natural crystalized cane sugar because we prefer the reliable quality and taste. In the end, the sugar content in our extract makes up less than 5% of the end product, an amount of sugar that is insignificant nutritionally, considering most recipes call for only a teaspoon of vanilla (0 carbs, 15 calories), which is then spread throughout the entire dish.
Q: Do you have products with no sugar added?
A: Yes. There are several. Our Organic Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract offers the same premium flavor and high quality as our traditional extract and is made with certified organic ingredients.
Our Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder is also sugar-free, as well as alcohol-free. To replace vanilla extract in a recipe, simply measure the same amount of our Pure Vanilla Powder and add.
And, of course, you can always use our Whole Beans (Madagascar Bourbon, Mexican, Tahitian and Gourmet Beans). 1 bean equals 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract.
Q: What are the nutritional values of your vanilla extract? Should I be be careful about the amount of fat, cholesterol, calories, etc?
A: The nutritional values of a serving of Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla and Flavors are so minimal that most values are actually rounded down to zero. As a result, Nielsen-Massey is not required to post Nutrition Facts on their labels. This also means that these products are perfect in healthy dishes, because they won't affect the negative nutritional contents (such as fat, cholesterol, calories, etc.) yet will greatly add to the flavor. Unlike other baking ingredients, all Nielsen-Massey products are Allergen-Free (including nut-free) and certified Kosher and Gluten-Free.
The Truth About Imitation Vanillas
Q: I've seen clear vanilla extracts on the supermarket shelves. Why is your extract brown?
A: Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extract is brown in color because it is made the natural way, with real vanilla beans. The color comes from the essential oils. The clear liquid you've seen isn't vanilla extract but rather an imitation. Most likely, it's a combination of propylene glycol or glycerin and artificial vanillin. If you are working on a color-sensitive dish, such as icing, that could be affected by the amber tint of our extracts, consider using our Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder, which is simply our premium vanilla extract encapsulated on a cornstarch base.
Q: What is vanillin?
A: Artificial vanillin is an ingredient meant to imitate the naturally occurring vanillin found within the vanilla bean. Artificial vanillin doesn't come close to matching the complexity and depth of flavor offered by natural vanilla because it's simulating only one component out of over 300 different flavor components inherent in the bean. And, on the slightly unappetizing side of things, artificial vanillin is actually produced as a by-product of the wood industry or from petro-chemicals.
Q: Why do people say Mexican vanilla is bad or dangerous?
A: First off, let's be clear. Vanilla beans produced in Mexico are not dangerous. In fact, we use those beans ourselves in our Mexican Pure Vanilla Extract and on their own as Mexican Gourmet Vanilla Beans. We choose premium beans grown and harvested in safe conditions and the result is a delicious, slightly spicy vanilla.
So the problem is not the beans, it's the Mexican vanilla extract that can be found, often in large bottles for cheap prices, in Mexican tourist spots. This extract has been known to contain dangerous ingredients, such as Coumarin, which is a carcinogen that has been outlawed by the FDA for over 40 years. And, though they're supposed to be real vanilla, these extracts may possess vanillin, an artificial vanilla flavor.
Since there are no labeling regulations or organization comparable to the United State's USDA or FDA in Mexico, there is no one policing the actual products and the ingredients inside. So, even bottles labeled as pure and coumarin-free may be far from it.
Q: Where are Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla and flavor products manufactured?
A: We have two state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, one at our Waukegan, Illinois headquarters and one at our plant in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Our products can be found throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.
Q: What size restaurant do you work with?
A: Any. Whether you're a large nationwide chain or a one-location restaurant, we want to provide you with exceptional food products and become your trusted pure vanilla and flavor supplier. Our small case size means we're accessible to small restaurants while enabling large operations to efficiently control their inventory.
Q: How can I purchase Nielsen-Massey products?
A: Nielsen-Massey sells to fine retailers, restaurants, food manufacturers and specialty distributors worldwide. If your business falls into one of these categories, please email or contact us with your Tax ID Number, telephone and contact person, and we will respond right away. You can also click here to find a foodservice distributor.
If you are a consumer, please click here to find a store in your area, catalog or website that sells our products.
Do you have a specific question you would like to ask concerning our vanilla products? Please contact us.