The Spice and Herb Bible: A Cook's Guideby Ian Hemphill
The Spice and Herb Bible is a fascinating, authoritative history and reference/i>
Cooks use spices and herbs to not only enhance food flavor, but to also create new taste combinations and sensations. From the vanilla bean used in creating ice cream to the cinnamon in fragrant cinnamon buns, it is virtually impossible to imagine a kitchen without spices.
The Spice and Herb Bible is a fascinating, authoritative history and reference source. Ian Hemphill describes a wide range of global herbs and spices which can be used in today's kitchen, either alone or in magical combinations. This book demystifies the art of combining herbs and spices, and introduces the home cook to worlds of tastes formerly to be had only at "exotic" restaurants. With delightful recipes and great tips for use and storage, The Spice and Herb Bible is truly an essential resource for any well-equipped kitchen.
- More than 100 spices and herbs listed alphabetically
- Quick, complete reference
- Storage and use details for each herb and spice
- Detailed color photographs of every herb and spice
- 29 spice blend recipes, including Garam Masala and Herbes de Provence
- For the novice and experienced cook
Author Biography: Ian Hemphill a native of Sydney, Australia grew up working in the family spice business. He managed a spice company overseas before returning to Sydney, where he opened a specialty shop bearing the nickname Ian has had since his school days: Herbie. Today, Herbie's Spices boasts the largest selection of herbs and spices for sale and export in the Southern Hemisphere.
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Other Common Names
- vanilla bean
- vanilla pod
- vanilla extract
- vanilla essence
- vanilla (Vanilla planifolia, V. fragrans)
- West Indian vanilla (V. pompona)
- Tahitian vanilla (V. tahitensis)
Other side bar information
- Names in Other Languages
- Flavor Group
- Weight per Teaspoon (5 ML)
- Suggested Quantity per Pound (500 G)
- Used In
- Combines with
follows at the end of the main entry
Vanilla is a member of the orchid genus, which is the largest family of flowering plants in the world, encompassing some 20,000 species. Vanilla, of which there are about 100 varieties, is the only species of Orchidaceæ of any culinary significance. The most important variety, V. planifolia, is a tropical climbing orchid, its succulent 1/3 - 1/4 in. (1-2 cm) diameter stems reach 33 - 49 ft. (10-15 in) high by clinging to host trees with long aerial roots. The leaves are flat, fleshy and large, ranging from 31/4-10 in. (8-25 cm) long and 3/4 - 3 1/4 in. (2-8 cm) wide. They are rounded at the base and taper abruptly to a 'cow-lick' pointed tip. The slightly fragrant, pale-greenish flower is yellow-lipped and averages 3 1/4 - 4 in. (8-10 cm) in diameter. The almost cylindrical, angled 4-10 in. (10-25 cm) long capsules that follow, hang in clusters and are referred to as pods or beans. When fresh they have no aroma or taste, it is the cured vanilla beans that are the source of true vanilla flavor.
There are two other varieties of vanilla, however their flavor is inferior when compared to V. planifolia. West Indian vanilla resembles V. planifolia but has larger leaves and flowers and shorter, thicker pods. Tahitian vanilla is native to Tahiti and cultivated in Hawaii, it has slender stems, narrow leaves and small pods that taper at either end.
A cured vanilla bean is dark brown to black in color, averages 7 - 8 in. (18-20 cm) long, has a shriveled appearance with many longitudinal ridges and indentations and is as flexible as a strip of well-oiled bridle leather. A dusting of white, sugary powder known as givre sometimes appears on the surface; this is vanillin (the active ingredient responsible for vanilla's flavor) which has crystallized. When split lengthwise, a black sticky mass of millions of minute seeds is revealed, each one being no larger than a speck of ground black pepper. The aroma of a vanilla bean is fragrant, floral, sweet and highly agreeable. Similarly, its taste is rich, smooth and appealing, although the flavor can only be fully appreciated in tandem with its seductive smell.
Origin and History
Vanilla is indigenous to the south-east of Mexico and parts of Central America where it grows in well-drained soils that are high in humus from the surrounding tropical vegetation. Although it is not known when the Aztecs started using vanilla, its production had reached some degree of sophistication by the time the Spanish were introduced to it in a drink of chocolate and vanilla sweetened with honey, that was given to Cortés by the Aztec emperor Montezuma in 1520. So impressed were the Spanish with this discovery that they imported vanilla beans and established factories in Spain to manufacture chocolate flavored with vanilla. The flavor of vanilla was not its only attribute as it had apparently earned a reputation as a nerve stimulant, an aphrodisiac and was also used to scent tobacco. Although plants were taken to England as early as 1733, and were re-introduced at the beginning of the nineteenth century, all serious attempts to have them produce pods outside their natural habitat had failed. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that the reason for this barrenness, due to the absence of natural pollinators, was discovered and thus a satisfactory method of hand pollination developed. By the early twentieth century, vanilla was cultivated in Reunion, Tahiti, and parts of Africa and Madagascar.
Sadly the invention of artificial vanilla from the waste sulphite liqueur of paper nulls, coal tar extracts or eugenol (the oil from cloves)
nearly ruined the natural vanilla industry. Imitation vanilla was about one-tenth of the price of real vanilla and although inferior in flavor profile, accounted for the lion's share of vanilla flavoring used in the burgeoning global market for ice-cream, confectionery and beverages. By the end of the twentieth century, consumer demand for natural flavors and an appreciation for the superior nuances in the flavor of real vanilla, has seen some resurgence in the Mexican industry as well as creating opportunities for new producers such as India and Indonesia.
ProcessingThe production of vanilla is an extraordinarily labor intensive process, beginning with fertilizing the flowers, which has to be done by hand to ensure a good crop. This is because the flowers are pollinated in their natural habitat by little bees of the genus Melapona. There are either not enough of these bees around to pollinate the vanilla flowers or the vines may be growing in regions where these bees do not exist. To complicate things further, there is a small membrane in the vanilla flower that prevents the stigma and stamen from touching and pollinating. Therefore the painstaking process of bending the two filaments to touch (generally done with a small implement like a toothpick) has to be done to every flower in the plantation to ensure it produces a vanilla bean.
The successfully fertilized flowers produce pods in about six weeks, and six to nine months after pollination the green pods begin to turn yellow at the bottom tip, indicating they are ready for harvest. We were intrigued when visiting a vanilla plantation in Papantla in south-eastern Mexico, to learn that owing to the high value of vanilla beans, they were often stolen by bandits just before the harvest. The farmers we saw said this had been a big problem for them in the past, however the bandits were often caught because of the practice of literally branding each vanilla bean! Difficult to imagine as it is, they did brand each green bean, using a cork with some pins in it forming a pattern. This pattern was 'branded' onto every bean and it stayed there and even remained after curing.
You will have noticed that most vanilla beans are uniform in length and look quite straight. On the plantation we visited, the farmer removes any curved pods, leaving only the good straight ones to mature. As the vanilla pods don't all mature at the same time the harvest can take place over a period of about three months. The pods are picked and then taken into town where they are cured. The harvested green, tasteless beans are laid in boxes and put into a wood-fired kiln to start the drying and curing process in which enzymes naturally occurring in vanilla create vanillin. After about 24 hours in the kiln the vanilla beans are spread out in the sun to absorb heat, becoming so hot you would almost burn your fingers if you picked one up. At the end of the day the pods are gathered up and wrapped in blankets or straw mats and laid out to sweat on multi-tiered racks in a large shed that is protected from the weather. The vanilla beans go through this process on a rotational basis and are then stored for up to six months until they have turned a very dark brown or black and the head curer is satisfied that the curing process is complete. During this time a vanilla bean may have been handled 100 times or more, and what commenced as five kilos of green, uncured beans becomes one kilo of properly cured vanilla beans. The beans are then graded according to quality and strung together in tight bundles of 60-100 pods ready for export. Although one may think no job could be more pleasant than working with vanilla all day long, vanilla workers hav
Meet the Author
Ian Hemphill a native of Sydney, Australia grew up working in the family spice business. He managed a spice company overseas before returning to Sydney, where he opened a specialty shop bearing the nickname Ian has had since his school days: Herbie. Today, Herbie's Spices boasts the largest selection of herbs and spices for sale and export in the Southern Hemisphere.
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