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The Cooking Inn : Herbs, Spices, Oils & Flavorings V Page Select a name from the list to go to it's site

We will start off with the seductively aromatic vanilla bean. This long, thin pod is the fruit of a luminous celadon-colored orchid (vanilla plani-folia), which, of over 20,000 orchid varieties, is the only one that bears anything edible. Native to tropical America, the vanilla bean was cultivated and processed by the aztecs, who used it to flavor their cocoa-based drink, xocolatl, later translated to chocolatl. Vanilla deliciously heightens chocolate's flavor. The vanilla bean was once considered an aphrodisiac, and was so rare that it was reserved for royalty. Today the three most common types of vanilla beans are Bourban-Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian. The Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans are rich and sweet and are the thinnest of the three beans. The thick Mexican Vanilla beans have a smooth rich flavor. Some Mexican Vanilla Beans contain coumarin, a potentially toxic substance that can cause liver and kidney damage. It is best to buy Mexican Vanilla Beans only from a reliable source. The Tahitian Vanilla beans are the thickest and darkest of the three, it is intensely aromatic, though not as flavorful as the other two types.
Vanilla powder is the whole dried bean ground until powdery. It's flavor doesn't evaporate as readily as that of Vanilla extract when heated, which makes it more suited for baked goods, custards, etc.
Vanilla extract is the most common form of Vanilla used. It's made by Macerating chopped beans in an alcohol-water solution in order to extract the flavor; the mixture is then aged for several months. Pure Vanilla extract must contain 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon during extraction and 35% alcohol. The resulting liquid is clear and richly fragrant.
Imitation Vanilla is composed entirely of artificial flavorings. It is often of harsh quality that leaves a bitter aftertaste.
A more involved explanation on vanilla can be found at vanilla in depth.

Uses: For desserts, chocolate, coffee, puddings, custards, baking, ice cream, also dishes made with veal and lobster.

Vegetable Oil:
This is an expensive and an all-purpose blend of oils made from plant sources such as vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Most vegetable oils are made from soybeans and are high in polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat but low in saturated fat.

Vegetable Shortening:
Is vegetable oil in the solid form. It is made from a variety or blend of refined and deodorized oils such as soybean, corn, cottonseed, or peanut, and has about 32 percent saturated fat. Some vegetable shortenings have animal fats added. Vegetable shortenings are essentially tasteless and preferred for baking.

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Vinegar is a natural product. It's simply fermented fruit juice that's become acidic. Vinegar is one of the oldest fermented food products known to man (predated only by wine and possibly by certain fermented foods made from milk). The word "vinegar" is derived from the French word "vin" (meaning wine) and "aigre" (means "sour"), indicating that it first occurred naturally from the spoilage of wine. It was the soldiers of Caesar's army who filled the hills of Dijon France with mustard seeds and who helped name vinegar. It is said that the conquered French called Roman wine that had fermented "vinaigre," meaning, "sour wine." The Babylonians in 5,000 B.C. made vinegar as an end produce of a wine from the date palm. The Chinese also made vinegar from rice wine, 3,000 years ago. Since that time, vinegar has been used as a condiment, a food preservative, a medicinal agent, a primitive antibiotic, and even as a household cleaning agent. Vinegars are made from a variety of ingredients, including wine, beer, hard cider, and grain alcohol. All vinegars are made be the same process - fermentation. Under the right conditions, specific bacteria convert the alcohol in wine, beer, or other alcoholic liquid into acetic acid. The best vinegars ferment naturally and are then aged in wooden casks to develop complex and intense flavors. Some producers bypass the slow fermentation process with heat and chemicals.
Distilled White Vinegar: Made from a grain-alcohol mixture, it is commercially processed from grain alcohol. This vinegar is used widely in processed foods and preserves.
Wine Vinegars: These are made from red, white or champagne wines.
Fruit and Herb Vinegars: These are wine vinegars that have been infused with other ingredients.
Sherry Vinegar: - Made from sherry wine and is aged for a minimum of 6 years in a network of oak barrels.
Authentic Balsamic Vinegar: Balsamic vinegar is an aged reduction of white sweet grapes (Trebbiano for red and Spergola for white sauvignon) that are boiled to syrup. The grapes are cooked very slowly in copper cauldrons over an open flame until the water content is reduced by over 50%. The resulting "grape must" is placed into wooden barrels where older balsamic vinegar is added to assist in the acetification. Each year the vinegar is transferred to different wood barrels so that the vinegar can obtain some of the flavors of the different woods. The only approved woods are oak, cherry, chestnut, mulberry, cacia, juniper, and ash. Balsamic vinegar can only be produced in the regions of Modena and Reggio in Italy.
The first historical reference to balsamic vinegar dates back to 1046, when a bottle of balsamic vinegar was reportedly given to Emperor Enrico III of Franconia as a gift. In the middle Ages, it was used as a disinfectant.
Commercial Balsamic Vinegar: - Is actually red-wine vinegar fortified with concentrated grape juice and sometimes caramelized sugar.
White Balsamic Vinegar: Cooked down grape juice is added to ordinary white wine vinegar to give it an amber color and slightly sweet flavor.
Cider Vinegar: It is milder and sweeter than most wine vinegars. Good cider vinegar is slightly cloudy, like fresh cider, and has a fruity, apple flavor.
Rice Vinegar: It is also called rice-wine vinegar. It is made from grain and not grapes. Japanese rice vinegar is milder and sweeter than the Chinese that tends to be more acidic and sharp. Look for "pure" rice vinegar to avoid those that are seasoned or sweetened.
Malt vinegar: It is traditionally made from beer and is sometimes colored with caramel and infused with wood shavings.

Purple flowers. Mild taste (except viola odorata, which is sweet).

Uses: Excellent for candying and as garnishes for desserts and tea sandwiches. Good in salads.

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