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Jan 6, 2010 03:26 PM

ISO: Vanilla

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. 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

      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

        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

          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

            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

              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

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

        6 Replies
        1. re: Kagemusha

          They also have 10 Madagascar beans at $13

          1. re: jayt90

            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

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

          2. re: Kagemusha

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

            1. re: red dragon

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

              1. re: CocoaChanel

                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. 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. re: toveggiegirl

                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

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

              2. 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.