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ISO: Vanilla

CocoaChanel Jan 6, 2010 03:26 PM

Hi all,

I have been lurking here for years, but this is my first post. Thanks for all the recommendations.

I am looking for vanilla (liquid, not bean pods) in Toronto. I can find the extract everywhere, but can't find pure vanilla. A friend brought me a bottle from Mexico when she was vacationing there, but I am close to the end of it. Ideally, anywhere downtown/on the subway. I have not yet checked at St Lawrence Market.

Many thanks,

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  1. TorontoJo RE: CocoaChanel Jan 6, 2010 04:30 PM

    The stuff you got from Mexico *is* vanilla extract. There is no such thing as "liquid vanilla" that is not extract, given that vanilla is a bean/pod. For whatever reason, some Mexican vanilla extracts market themselves as "pure vanilla", simply meaning that it is not adulterated with any synthetics or other flavourings. But it is still an extract, with alcohol as the primary solvent. I personally prefer Madagascar vanilla over the Mexican vanilla, but that may just be a personal taste thing.

    Edit: just found this piece online, which explains why your vanilla extract is labeled "pure vanilla" -- apparently many Mexican vanillas are adulterated.


    6 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo
      CocoaChanel RE: TorontoJo Jan 6, 2010 04:39 PM

      Apologies - I should have been more specific. Thank you for the info

      All the extracts here (I even bought the madagascar extract from Williams Sonoma) taste very flat, more solvent than the fragrant vanilla and do not have the "punch" of taste I had become accustomed to. They all taste/smell "watery" to me

      I guess I will just have to keep looking

      1. re: CocoaChanel
        scarberian RE: CocoaChanel Jan 6, 2010 05:15 PM

        You can easily make your own. I bought a small GLASS bottle of straight vodka and tossed into about 8 vanilla pods (split). I waited about a month (shaking it every 3 days for a minute or two). The vanilla extract I got was better than most of the stuff being sold out there. Price wise it IS more expensive than getting the ready made extracts. On a side note, if you want a slightly sweeter extract use rum.

        1. re: scarberian
          1sweetpea RE: scarberian Jan 6, 2010 05:34 PM

          I bought a bottle of the "pure" stuff a few years ago in Mexico, but never used any of it. I was really disappointed upon opening it. It smelled very floral and unlike the vanilla to which I am accustomed. I am much more attracted to the smell of Madagascar vanilla pods. Granted, they are pricey, but one can flavour a heck of a lot of sugar or a few ounces of a spirit, such as rum or vodka, which will last you a while, unless you're baking daily. If you simply must have the Mexican import, enlist a friend or a friend of a friend to source some while on vacation in Mexico, but I recommend that you experiment with a couple of high quality pods of the Madagascar vanilla. You may never look back.

          1. re: 1sweetpea
            CocoaChanel RE: 1sweetpea Jan 7, 2010 01:41 AM

            Thank you. Those are great ideas. I think I will try making my own from madagascar pods. I was so disappointed with the lack of flavour from the commercial stuff, though I really should have expected as much

            1. re: CocoaChanel
              scarberian RE: CocoaChanel Jan 7, 2010 04:56 PM

              I also forgot the alternatives : vanilla powder and vanilla concentrate. The powder is ground up vanilla bean pods and the concentrate is the oil and resin of the vanilla bean (it's more potent then the extract). They are both not as readily available as the extract. You can also put several bean pods in an air tight jar of sugar and you'll get vanilla sugar.

      2. re: TorontoJo
        julesrules RE: TorontoJo Jan 8, 2010 08:05 AM

        There are apparently no labelling laws in Mexico so I wouldn't put much stock in "pure". The "pure" and "organic" stuff I bought in Mexico turns out to be well-known for actually being coumarin. It smelled quite distinct compared to club house vanilla and it reminded me of the flan desserts I ate in the Mexican resort, which I did enjoy.... all this to suggest that the OP might be looking for something other than quality vanilla, no offence meant.
        I should have known better btw - the brand I bought was very cheap, but they also sold vanilla beans packaged under the same label and they were basically the same price as they are here.

      3. Kagemusha RE: CocoaChanel Jan 7, 2010 07:33 AM

        Costco's Kirkland Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract works for me.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Kagemusha
          jayt90 RE: Kagemusha Jan 8, 2010 09:08 AM

          They also have 10 Madagascar beans at $13

          1. re: jayt90
            vivo RE: jayt90 Apr 10, 2010 10:52 AM

            Do you know which Costco has the vanilla beans in stock? I went to the one on Warden which only carried the extract. Thanks!

            1. re: vivo
              jayt90 RE: vivo Apr 10, 2010 12:50 PM

              I got them at Ajax. I think they use this as a clearance place, when they gather up slow moving things.

          2. re: Kagemusha
            red dragon RE: Kagemusha Jan 8, 2010 09:22 AM

            I've been buying the Costco madagascar for quite some time too and like it a lot.

            1. re: red dragon
              CocoaChanel RE: red dragon Jan 8, 2010 07:32 PM

              thank you -- I will head off to Costco and give that a try. Costco had not crossed my mind

              1. re: CocoaChanel
                Paulustrious RE: CocoaChanel Jan 12, 2010 05:25 AM

                They are the best value vanilla pods I have found in Toronto. To help you look for them, they come as two glass test-tubes attached to a piece of green cardboard in a bubble-pack arrangement.

                Their bottles of extract are extremely good value.

          3. p
            pavlova RE: CocoaChanel Jan 7, 2010 07:52 AM

            I too got a bottle of vanilla extract from Mexico and was very disappointed with it. I use the vanilla bean paste from Williams Sonoma and love it. It doesn't have an alcohol/solvent flavour at all, and you get the bonus of the tiny seeds in your baked goods. I have also made my own extract, but, there is more involved than simply soaking beans to really extract the flavour, and I didn't find I got the strength I wanted, even with a generous amount of beans (bottle stuffed full).

            1. t
              toveggiegirl RE: CocoaChanel Jan 10, 2010 10:42 AM

              Golda's Kitchen has pure Mexican vanilla extract.

              2 Replies
              1. re: toveggiegirl
                Kagemusha RE: toveggiegirl Jan 11, 2010 07:39 AM

                Sure but it's wildly over-priced--a lingering Golda's tradition, despite their makeover. Costco's excellent Madagascar extract is like $7-8 for 473ml.

                1. re: Kagemusha
                  toveggiegirl RE: Kagemusha Jan 11, 2010 07:47 AM

                  Yes, but I thought the op might want Mexican vanilla which has a bolder flavour.

              2. t
                torontofoodiegirl RE: CocoaChanel Jan 10, 2010 11:03 AM

                I was in a store recently that had a variety of high-end vanilla extracts. I think that it was Degrees (on Yonge, N of Eg) but I'm not 100% sure (swiss cheese brain). It may be worth giving them a call. They generally carry pretty high quality stuff so, if they do have vanilla, it's probably good.

                1. a
                  Abbeshay RE: CocoaChanel Jan 11, 2010 05:29 PM

                  Check out Williams-Sonoma vanilla-sometimes it can be as low as approximately $14.00 for a bottle (if memory serves me, the bottle looked like it held about 6 ounces of vanilla). This stuff lasted me for about 9 months of average baking.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Abbeshay
                    bananasashimi RE: Abbeshay Jan 12, 2010 05:00 AM

                    Check out Lively Life at the St. Lawrence Market. I never tried looking for vanilla there but found a lot of unusual ingredients i have never been able to find anywhere else, specifically ethnic spices. http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/shopp...

                  2. f
                    FrenchSoda RE: CocoaChanel Apr 9, 2010 07:51 AM

                    Any ideas for well priced vanilla beans other than Costco? I don't have a membership. $13 for 10 is great, my local grocery store is $8.99 for 2!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: FrenchSoda
                      cutehinano RE: FrenchSoda Apr 9, 2010 06:26 PM

                      You can buy them on ebay - just search for vanilla beans. I bought like 10 pods (came in a vacuum pack) for $5ish and most will ship to Canada. They seem good so far.

                      1. re: cutehinano
                        jayt90 RE: cutehinano Apr 9, 2010 07:22 PM

                        I bought some Mexican Bourbon type beans from an eBay seller in Arizona. They were sent quickly and the price was low.
                        But they are not nearly as large or well packaged like the Madagascar beans at Costco, which are returnable.

                    2. l
                      Lorenei RE: CocoaChanel Apr 9, 2010 12:21 PM

                      I looked high and low in and around Toronto for years for something similar. The Bonnie Stern Cooking School has a lovely Vanilla Bean Paste (think molasses). It is fantastic and has an expiry of about one year. The School (also a store) is located on the northeast corner of Yonge & Erskine (about 3 blocks north of Eglinton).

                      For whipped cream, add one teaspoon per cup of whipping cream and beat, no sugar necessary, it has a great yummy flavour and awesome speckled appearance.

                      Bonnie Stern
                      6 Erskine Ave, Toronto, ON M4P, CA

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Lorenei
                        FrenchSoda RE: Lorenei Apr 9, 2010 12:45 PM

                        Sounds wonderful, thanks! I'm actually there this week-end for the first time, for a piping class. I will pick some up.

                        1. re: Lorenei
                          ctl98 RE: Lorenei Apr 9, 2010 07:06 PM

                          Thanks for the tip! Would you know how much the paste is?

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