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MEJORES VANILLA

A World of Flavors for Your Home Kitchen

Published in the December 2022 Issue Published online: Dec 05, 2022 Business
Viewed 466 time(s)



Photos and Story By Annie Carbutt

If you’re looking for a special Christmas gift that is anything but ordinary, we’ve found just the thing for you. Mejores Vanilla is a local home-operated business that offers unique, high-quality ingredients you simply can’t find anywhere else, all crafted right here in Idaho Falls. And the star of the show is homemade vanilla extract.

What makes this vanilla extra special is that each bottle has a unique flavor profile specific to the vanilla bean it was extracted from. Owner Terri Garcia takes pride in purchasing only the best vanilla beans from around the world through a fair trade co-op. She believes the farmers who grow the vanilla beans deserve a fair wage for their labors. She also believes that each vanilla bean deserves to be showcased for its own unique qualities.

“Just like fine wine, every vanilla bean has its own complex flavor,” she said. “Different areas with different soils and climates give the vanilla bean varieties each a different flavor. There are some that are very sweet and light and floral. Others taste like dried fruit or spices while some have a deep, smoky, rich flavor. Some taste like butter and toffee and some taste like chocolate or even mocha. They’re all amazing in their own way.”

To test this out for myself, I took Terri’s advice and sampled several different vanilla extracts by placing a single drop on a sugar cube. What I discovered wowed me.

The extract made with vanilla beans from the Cook Islands was sweet and thick and tasted like cotton candy. The extract made with vanilla beans from Mexico was warm and spicy with a hint of cinnamon. And the extract made with vanilla beans from Sri Lanka was caramely and also spicy, but a different kind. Each flavor was completely different from the others.

“It's very interesting how the flavors form,” Terri said. “There are over 250 vanilla compounds within the vanilla bean. Some of them are expressed and some of them are hidden, depending on where they grow and how they're grown. And then after they're harvested, they’re cured with one of two different methods, which also can affect the flavor.”

It isn’t only the variety of vanilla bean that affects the flavor of an extract. Terri also uses a variety of alcohols as the base for her extracts to create a range of unique flavors.

"The very traditional vanillas are made with vodka as a base,” she said. “Some flavors are made with rum, whether it's white rum, coconut rum, spiced rum or others. These are very popular. For those who don’t want a boozy flavor, I’ve even done some extractions in Everclear.”

Part of what makes Terri’s extracts extra special is that they’re double fold, or twice as strong as a regular extract. So a little flavor goes a long way.

The unique vanillas make for a fun variety of uses in the kitchen. Though any vanilla could successfully be used in any recipe calling for it, Terri recommends pairing the unique notes of each extract with something that complements it.

"For example, the Sri Lanka bean has a little bit of spiciness to it but also buttery caramel coffee undertones,” she said, “So I would use that maybe in candy making or caramel cream sauce to put over a cake or something wonderful to dip fresh apples in. Playing around with the flavors of each extract can show you what it offers and inspire endless possibilities for how to use it.”

And the flavor doesn’t stop with extracts. Terri has infused vanilla goodness into a whole line of tasty ingredients so everyone has something to enjoy. These include locally sourced honey, toasted demerara sugar, a variety of salts, and even monk fruit sweetener. Terri also sells vanilla powder and vanilla paste, which are processed directly from the vanilla beans themselves.

The paste is great for presentation, she says, because it offers the delightful specks that people have come to associate with the vanilla bean.

“You can use this anywhere you use extract in your recipes, but where it really shines is where you want those wonderful, fancy vanilla bean speckles, such as in vanilla cheesecake, vanilla bean ice cream, vanilla bean frosting, vanilla creme brulee, or something like that,” she said. Whatever ingredient you choose, it is sure to elevate any dish to a new level.

“You really can’t go wrong with any of these,” Terri said. “Add vanilla in some form, and the end result will be something fantastic.”

To order your own lineup of fine ingredients from Mejores Vanilla, check out the Facebook page @Mejores Vanilla, or contact MejoresVanilla@gmail.com // 208-569-0473.

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