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Thread: Mexican vanilla?

  1. #1
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    Mexican vanilla?

    I would so appreciate some advice....I was just given a bottle of Mexican vanilla from a co-worker who just returned from Puerto Vallarta. I bake a lot so it was a very thoughtful gift, but it seems like I have read that Mexican vanilla is to be avoided. Any suggestions, info, or thoughts would be appreciated. The brand is Azteca...

    Katie

  2. #2
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    Katie,

    I will be interested to see the replies to this question because I love Mexican vanilla and always bring a big bottle back with me everytime I go to Mexico. Why have people said to avoid it??

    Peggy
    To take the first step in faith, you don't have to see the whole staircase: just take the first step. - Dr. Martin Luther King

  3. #3
    Here's my understanding- most vanilla produced in Mexico today is synthetic, rather than pure. Producers of synthetic vanilla add something called coumarin (sp?) to make it smell like pure vanilla. Coumarin can be damaging to the liver; it is not a legal food additive in the U.S. Further, labeling laws in Mexico may not be well-enforced, so even if the label on a bottle does not list coumarin, it may still contain some.

    Apparently you *can* get pure Mexican vanilla, but it would be just as expensive as any other pure vanilla. The "bargain" vanilla you can get is usually synthetic and so *may* contain the coumarin I mentioned above.

    So, though MIL is always offering to refill my Penzey's bottle with her gallon-jug of Mexican vanilla, I choose to stick with the Penzey's stuff and pay through the nose for it. That's JMHO, though.

  4. #4
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    The US banned the sale of Mexican vanilla that contains coumarin (it's not really vanilla, the stuff with coumarin). Most of the vanilla sold in Mexico is synthetic, though it doesn't all have coumarin in it. Telltale signs of the fake stuff: clear, or dark and murky (the real stuff is amber colored and translucent), low alcohol content (genuine vanilla extract contains at least 35% ethyl alcohol), laughably low price. Pure Mexican vanilla is available, but you're better off getting it in this country. Warning: it won't be cheap.

    I'd read the label very carefully!
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  5. #5
    Here are a couple of links to descriptions of courmarin and Mexican vanilla. Again, it doesn't sound like *all* Mexican vanilla is to be avoided, just that it can be tricky to tell if you're getting the real deal or something with a potentially toxic additive.

    http://www.vanilla.com/html/facts-mexican.html

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/011207.html

    http://gourmetsleuth.com/vanilla.htm

  6. #6
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    Interesting... I just grabbed my bottle. It is the "Xilkan" brand and it says "coumarine free" on it. Should I believe the labeling?? I bought it in the duty-free shop at the airport in Cabo San Lucas.

    Peggy
    To take the first step in faith, you don't have to see the whole staircase: just take the first step. - Dr. Martin Luther King

  7. #7
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    I use Mexican all the time....my bottle says "no courmarine". Great stuff!! It has a yellowish label and is in Spanish.
    *Susan*

    "One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries."

    A.A. Milne

  8. #8
    I think there are two issues- one is whether it is pure vs. synthetic vanilla, which may not matter to you anyway (didn't Cook's Illustrate do a taste test and decide they actually liked McCormick imitation vanilla best?). I think Sneezle's descriptions are good- it's pure vanilla if it's amber-colored and translucent, and has a minimum of 35% alcohol. If it's both of those things, it's more likely to be pure and thus courmarin-free.

    But if it is synthetic, the other issue is does it or does it not have courmarin in it? That's the harder one to answer. I'd be inclined to believe the label, and the fact that it was sold in a duty-free shop rather than a street-vendor would also reassure me. (I've never shopped in a duty-free shop but I'm assuming they'd vet their products with some degree of care...) It just makes me nervous to read that Mexico is very lax in enforcing its labeling laws- so I'd guess companies might get away with saying "courmarin-free" when it isn't. The uncertainty is enough to keep me from using it- I get all paranoid about things like that. But I think there are thousands of people in the U.S. using this stuff and we haven't heard about a vanilla-related outbreak of liver problems, so... I think it's a personal choice!

  9. #9
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    Thank you so much for the information, everyone! This is definitely not the pure Mexican vanilla extract and while the label says "coumarin-free", I think I am more comfortable sticking with my Spice Islands.

    Katie

  10. #10
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    I've been very happy with Mexican vanilla. My parents live in Mexico part time and they always bring Kahlua and vanilla as gifts. I use "Posa" brand and it is marked coumarin free. The flavor is layered and deep...I hate when I run out and have to use store brand extract in a pinch. I've been thinking of ordering some from Penzey's to compare with the Mexican vanilla.

    I've tried to research the brand on the Internet and came up empty handed.
    Good thread!
    Jennifer

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the info. I think mine is OK because it fits sneezles description and is labeled properly. I've never tried the Penzey's brand, but I can tell the difference between my Mexican vanilla and a store brand. I'll stick with the Mexican.

    Peggy
    To take the first step in faith, you don't have to see the whole staircase: just take the first step. - Dr. Martin Luther King

  12. #12

    Mexican vanilla - Orlando brand

    This is an interesting and very timely subject for me. I was just given a bottle of Orlando Vainilla Natural that says no coumarin. I have read that some people trust the Orlando brand. It is made in Jal. Mex C.P. I can't tell what percent of alcohol is in the bottle. The one thing that I found curious is that on the front label is says Pure Natural Blended Vanilla. I never thought of the Madagascar vanilla that I buy to be blended. Is that normal? What do you all think? Is it worth using? Thank you so much.

  13. #13
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    Does anyone else use Vencedora brand? I bought a huge bottle (a liter, I think) at Central Market for about $7.99. Skeptical, I tried it out in a few recipes and was amazed at how good it tasted. My bottle lasted for months and months, and I bake every day, so it was a huge bargain. I haven't made it to Central Market for more, but am planning on buying another bottle.

  14. #14

    Thumbs up

    Originally posted by annagins
    Does anyone else use Vencedora brand? I bought a huge bottle (a liter, I think) at Central Market for about $7.99. Skeptical, I tried it out in a few recipes and was amazed at how good it tasted.
    This is what I have and think it's great! My nephew bought it for me in Mexico. I think he got it for like 6 bucks.

  15. #15

    Xilkan Vanilla

    I LOVE the Xilkan brand and have even contacted the manufacturer to see if I could order directly from them. As others have mentioned, the manufacturer states they cannot send their product to an address in the states. BUMMER!My bottle states the vanilla is 'Coumarine Free' so I don't understand what the problem is.
    On a personal note I've used this brand for almost 2 years now and have no signs of liver problems.
    I'm down to my last teaspoon so if anyone knows any place I can buy more of the Xilkan brand or if you have an unopened bottle you've decided not to use due to the controversy, I'd be interested in taking it off your hands!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Personalchef503 View Post
    My bottle states the vanilla is 'Coumarine Free' so I don't understand what the problem is.
    The problem is that food and drugs and virtually unregulated in Latin America, and you can't necessarily trust the label.

  17. #17
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    anyone heard of the D'Lis brand from Mexico, it says PURE VANILLA, vanilla bean extract, ethyl alcohol, water. no cumarine.

    I have googled it and people seem to really like it. my dad brings it back from mexico every year.

    I wish I new how to make sure it was safe ;( I poured it into a clear glass and it is dark.
    Though a flower may not bloom, In our heart, We still know the beauty of it's blossom

  18. #18
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    I think what you have is real vanilla. I was just doing research on this too since I was given a bottle of "vanilla" from my neighbor who went to Honduras last week. I threw it out. It didn't have coumarin in it, but it was vanillin - the artificial stuff made from wood pulp. And it didn't smell very good. So I dumped it. But in my research I found that they said if it's clear amber (not murky - mine was really murky) and there's a lot of alcohol in it (mine had almost no alcohol in it), you probably have real vanilla.

  19. #19
    By the way, which is the best-quality vanilla bean? Madagascar? It could be better to make homemade vanilla flavoring.

  20. #20

    Vencedora brand

    A quick search finds that this brand can be purchased from Leos Mexican Imports.

    Now if I could just find Orlando. The company has a website, but it says "under construction," in fact it has said that for months now.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyLyn View Post
    The company has a website, but it says "under construction," in fact it has said that for months now.

    Their site works for me.



  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gumbeaux View Post
    Their site works for me.

    I believe she was referring to a company called Orlando.
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by sneezles View Post
    I believe she was referring to a company called Orlando.
    Then this site may be of interest to her. I wouldn't be surprised if the FDA shut down the site she is talking about.
    Last edited by Gumbeaux; 08-11-2007 at 12:21 PM.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyLyn View Post
    Now if I could just find Orlando. The company has a website, but it says "under construction," in fact it has said that for months now.
    found this information on Orlando:

    Hi. I stumbled across your website because I did a google search for Orlando Vanilla. I don't know how old the questions are but to answer your readers' question of where to get it ...the bottle says: to order in the US write to: Orlando Product, P.O. Box 9666, Yakima Wa 98909. I'm in Canada so I think it will probably be inconvenient and costly to order from Washington. I'm going to write directly to Mexico to find out if I can get it here somewhere.
    If anyone wants the e-mail address it's: orlandopv@pvnet.com.mx The reason it is so amazingly delicious is because the vanilla beans are soaked in rum. I bought my small bottle a couple years ago and if I had known at the time how great it was I would have bought one 4 times the size! CP
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by sneezles View Post
    The reason it is so amazingly delicious is because the vanilla beans are soaked in rum.
    Wow...that must explain why my homemade vanilla is so good - it's made of vanilla beans and rum. Is that a good way of saying they're "soaked in rum"? They don't just soak, they float in the stuff!!!

  26. #26

    Red face posa vanilla is safe, my liver is tested regularly and never had a problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by jennanne View Post
    I've been very happy with Mexican vanilla. My parents live in Mexico part time and they always bring Kahlua and vanilla as gifts. I use "Posa" brand and it is marked coumarin free. The flavor is layered and deep...I hate when I run out and have to use store brand extract in a pinch. I've been thinking of ordering some from Penzey's to compare with the Mexican vanilla.
    Quote Originally Posted by jennanne View Post

    I've tried to research the brand on the Internet and came up empty handed.
    Good thread!

  27. #27

    Where to get Posa??

    Where can I get or order Posa, I was given it as a gift from a friend who traveled to Mexico and I'm almost out and it is AWESOME!

  28. #28

    Azteca vanilla

    The Azteca vanilla I bought fromm Cancun is clear and it doesn't contain coumarin. I need more, but haven't found any here. It really does make my desserts taste better! We love it!

  29. #29
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    Mine is from Los Cincos Soles. The label "says" it's organic and coumarin free. The ingredients are the same as Penzey's - Extract, water, alcohol. I can't determine the color since the bottle is dark (too lazy to get up and pour some out and look at the color!) and I have no idea how to determine the alcohol content. I will say that I've used it a few times in the Penzey's chocolate pudding recipe and there is a noticeable difference in taste and while I don't think my palate is highly developed, it does seem like it has a complex flavor that wouldn't be there if it was synthetic. It's a small bottle in any event. I'll use it over time.
    Sarah

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by JodieKaye View Post
    The Azteca vanilla I bought fromm Cancun is clear and it doesn't contain coumarin. I need more, but haven't found any here. It really does make my desserts taste better! We love it!
    If it is clear, it is not natural vanilla.

    I started making my own -- I order the Mexican vanilla beans and brew it right along with my regular vanilla extract. Now I know it's the real thing and nothing else. Not the only solution, but the easiest one for me.

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