Ina’s Favorite Flavor of All Time: The Good Vanilla

And why you really don’t want to know what the imitation stuff is made of.

We hear Ina talk a lot about “the good vanilla” and finally she is dedicating an entire episode to this exotic yet ubiquitous flavor. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice next to saffron, according to CNN Money, but it is used more frequently. With nearly every cookie and cake recipe requiring vanilla, it’s no surprise people cut corners by buying cheaper imitation vanilla. Ina has always been an advocate for using the real thing. 

“I think my favorite flavor of all is vanilla,” Ina reveals. “Not just any vanilla, good vanilla.”  She uses three kinds in her baking: whole beans, a good-quality store bought extract and a jar of homemade extract that she started 30 years ago. If you want to make it yourself she assures us it’s “crazy easy” to make. Just take out a small loan for the 12-24 vanilla beans you need to buy (kidding) and let it steep in vodka for at least a month. Every once in a while, top it off with more vodka and add more beans.  “I would use it as cologne if I could,” she says. The coolest thing about the extract is you can snip off the end of the beans and squeeze them right into a dish, no scraping required. How easy is that? 

Use her homemade vanilla to make any recipe but be sure to try her Vanilla Rum Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel. “Trust me it makes grown men cry,” she says. 

And if Ina’s enthusiasm doesn’t convince you that real vanilla is a good thing to have on hand, read up what imitation vanilla is made. According to Business Insider, coal tar is one of the sources of synthetic vanillin and "cinnamon, paper waste, pine bark, and even cow poop” have been used. Whoa. We’ll stick with the good vanilla. 

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