For our August meeting Karen had asked that we find a way to compare vanillas as the cost lately had just gone thru the roof. We had many good suggestions, but settled on making a batch of crème anglaise and then adding the same amount of each different vanilla to a consistent amount of anglaise. The one drawback with this ended up being that we tasted a lot of the alcohol which wouldve burned off had we actually baked or cooked with it, but it wasnt distracting enough to misguide us in our efforts.
We tasted 6 vanillas in order from most common to either most expensive or artificial:
Mc Cormick: we found this to have a very strong alcohol nose and light vanilla flavor, overall it was the most comforting of the group, the one we all associated with our childhoods.
Spice Islands: the nose was spicy, and alcohol lower than the first, it also had a nutty quality about it
Vainilla (brown Mexican): off nose, darker color, artificial and false flavor
Vainilla (clear Mexican): candy-like nose, coconut-y, very light in color with almost no flavor
Trader Joes Tahitian blend: low alcohol nose, pure extract, alcoholic flavor, slightly nutty
Cheryls homemade: made from absolut and penzys vanilla bean, floral and complex nose, very light flavor, floral, would make a lovely drink, but we wondered if the delicacy of it would be completely lost during baking
Morton and Basset: nutty, round nose, pure extract, epitome of vanilla flavor
Nielsen Massey Madagascar bourbon extract: complex nose, very full of vanilla flavor, slightly floral
Trader Joes Cookbook Vanilla: Alcohol free, ugh, very artificial flavor, almost no scent with a gluey consistency
Although the Mc Cormick won our hearts the most expensive vanillas were the ones with the truest flavors, the homemade, the Morton and Basset, and the Nielsen Massey.