vanilla extractMy daughter had taken some course in middle school that involved cooking. Yes, the class had BOTH boys and girls. One of the things the students could NOT bring to school was vanilla extract. But they COULD bring imitation vanilla.

Vacationing with my wife’s family this past summer, one of my in-laws wondered whether imitation vanilla contained alcohol. I surmised that it did not. If it did, why allow it and not permit vanilla extract in school?

But I had not looked it up util the next day, when I found an intriguing 2015 article called Why Don’t You Buy Vanilla Extract in a Liquor Store? The subtitle notes it is “the same proof as vodka or rum, yet we buy it at the supermarket. Here’s why.”

“You have to go back to the years just before Prohibition, when trade groups and manufacturers… realized that the only way to save their industries was to lobby politicians to write in legal loopholes that would allow them to continue operating.

“Vanilla extract doesn’t just rely on alcohol to extract the essential flavors and fragrances from the vanilla bean and suspend them in a stable solution—it’s also required by law to have an alcohol content of at least 35 percent. (Vanilla extract is also the only flavoring deemed important enough for the federal government to officially define standards for.)

“In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was made the law of the land, and the U.S. was, at least on paper, now an alcohol-free country. But the actual legal mechanisms for enforcing the amendment weren’t in place yet.

“Seeing their last chance to avert disaster, [the Flavor and Extracts Manufacturers Association] flooded congressmen with telegrams… By the time the Volstead Act went into effect the following year, it included a clause that made an exemption for flavor extracts—as long as they were deemed non-potable and a reasonable person wouldn’t want to drink them straight.”

The story has more fun facts, especially about money, but also concerning what a “reasonable person” means.

Imitation vanilla is made from synthetic vanillin, which is the compound that naturally occurs in vanilla beans and gives it that distinctive flavor.” It is cheaper and contains no alcohol.

Those are the rules in the United States. How does the rest of the world treat vanilla extract?

For ABC Wednesday

7 Responses to “V is for vanilla extract and imitation vanilla”

  • fillyjonk says:

    And sadly, we may be going back to using more and more imitation vanilla: several years of bad weather in vanilla-growing areas has caused the price of the real stuff to go WAY up.

    (I can often tell a difference, and I prefer the real stuff)

  • Carol Huber says:

    Real vanilla extract only. No expiration date if it is properly stored and sealed, which means close the bottle and put it in your pantry or cabinet. Buy a big economical bottle at Costco and enjoy it while it lasts or forever, whichever comes first.

  • I like the smell and taste of it but please without the alcohol 😉

    Have a splendid, ♥-warming ABC-Wednes-day / -week
    ♫ M e l d y ♪ (ABC-W-team)

  • Imitation vanilla is so yucky, I prefer to go without the ingredient if that’s the only thing available. I wonder if manufacturers/Congress did something similar with almond extract and lemon extract. Google, here I come. Your post is timely, being that today is the 85th anniversary of the end of Prohibition. 🙂

  • Another wonderful historical and fascinating article ~ for the letter V ~

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  • Real vanilla is sold in grocery stores in New Zealand, but I have no idea what the school rules are. Whenever I baked with it, I always thought it smelled like vanilla cough syrup. Now I know why.

  • Jackie says:

    I had no idea! I can buy the real vanilla extract almost anywhere here. It is pricy, but definitely better than the imitation.

Leave a Reply

Contact me
  • E-mail Contact E-mail; Blog content c 2005-2018, Roger Green, unless otherwise stated. Quotes used per fair use. Some content, including many graphics, in the public domain.
  • Privacy policy Privacy policy of this blog
I Actually Know These Folks
I contribute to these blogs
Other people's blogs
Popular culture
Useful stuff
December 2018
« Nov   Jan »
wordpress analytics
Please follow & like us :)
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial