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Does anyone here use Watkins Vanilla?

Meryl's picture

I'm thinking of ordering Watkins original double strength vanilla extract. It's $9.99 for an 11-oz bottle, plus $8.00 shipping. I've been using Penzey's double strength, but it's much more expensive, $19.99 for just a 4-oz bottle, plus $4.95 shipping. I like Penzey's, but I've also heard great things about Watkins, and the price is fantastic. How does it compare with Penzey's?



Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

Adele's picture

(post #28188, reply #1 of 11)

A co-worker saw my Penzey's catalog at work and I told her about it and that I was ordering Vanilla, as I was almost out. She told me about Watkins, and said the vanilla was great, she hadn't ordered any spices. I checked out the website, the prices looked good, but noticed that the alcohol content was way lower than Penzey's. Have no idea why this had me doubting the flavor of Watkins, but it did. The site also didn't go into the great detail about the spices that Penzey's does.

I ordered the double strength from Penzey's. (Which was $13.99, not $19.99) I too would be interested in hearing from those that have used it.


But, but, its SUPPOSED to taste like that!

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

Meryl's picture

(post #28188, reply #2 of 11)

Adele,


We're both wrong, it's not $19.99, and definitely not $13.99, it's $18.99, so I was close! I have the newest catalog right in front of me (Fall 2003), and the 4 oz  double strength is indeed $18.99. The single strength is $13.49.



Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

Adele's picture

(post #28188, reply #4 of 11)

I sit corrected! Newest catalog is at work.

From website:

Vanilla prices have gone up, and for that we are sorry. It seems that every force which can drive the price of spices up has occurred at the same time regarding Vanilla Beans. The cost of Vanilla has gone up insanely for us, and we have tried to pass on as little of the increase as possible, but Vanilla is just too expensive right now. As much as we love Vanilla, we are having a hard time using it ourselves at these prices. We hope very much that prices will come down, but we aren't sure of that. We just hope that next part of the cycle will be a decrease in prices, not another round of increases.

Product#


But, but, its SUPPOSED to taste like that!

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

Meryl's picture

(post #28188, reply #5 of 11)

Thanks for pointing out the lower alcohol content to me. I just checked the Watkin's website, and they use something like 8.5% as opposed to the usual 35% alcohol. They also don't consider their vanilla "pure vanilla extract," which apparently requires a higher level of alcohol? But don't quote me on this, I ain't no expert. The vanilla, however, is authentic, not imitation. Anyway, they also noted that they added "fortified ingredients" to the vanilla as stabilizers, something like that. I e-mailed them, asking just what exactly those fortified ingredients are.


Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

favorablyimpressed's picture

(post #28188, reply #3 of 11)

My mother always used Watkins vanilla and always stressed the importance of using real vanilla and not an imitation vanilla.  I just finished a large bottle of double-strength Watkins vanilla.  It was fine, but I really can't go overboard in my endorsement.  I guess it was just ok.  It is important that you only use half the amount your recipe calls for.  I hadn't noticed the alcohol content.  It seemed to last forever, so I don't think I had any evaporation.

Meryl's picture

(post #28188, reply #6 of 11)

According to their website, this vanilla has "fortified ingredients." Do you still have the bottle around somewhere? If so, can you tell us just what in hell those "fortified ingredients" are? Thanks!


Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

favorablyimpressed's picture

(post #28188, reply #7 of 11)

Yes, I still have the bottle.  There are about three drops left.


Ingredients include:  Water, corn syrup, propylene glycol, vanilla extract, (alcohol, water, extractive of vanilla beans), alcohol (8.25%), artificial flavors, caramel color

Meryl's picture

(post #28188, reply #9 of 11)

Ah, we were posting at the same time. Thanks a lot for the info!


Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

TEChh's picture

(post #28188, reply #10 of 11)

The Spice House in Chicago and on the North Shore is owned by a sibling of Penzey's owner. Spice House will allow you to by as much or as little as you need. Most everything is sold in bulk.

Does that make sense?

Meryl's picture

(post #28188, reply #11 of 11)

Some interesting info on vanilla in a letter to David Lenweaver from the VP of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc. (their vanilla is supposed to be excellent):


As you will remember in Issue #8 of Maitre d' I did a brief article on vanilla. Just prior to sending this to the list I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Matthew Nielsen, Vice President of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc. I also sent Mr. Nielsen a copy of the newsletter asking for comments or corrections to the vanilla article. He was kind enough to respond with the following. (Verbatim from his email.)<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />



Mr. David Lenweaver


FoodWeb


 


Dear David,


 


Thank you for the complimentary copy of Maitre d’ (Issue 8 - May 11, 1999). I enjoyed the content and the easy flow of information. As requested I did have a few comments regarding your vanilla article.


 


1) The specific orchids that produce vanilla beans are ‘Vanilla Planifolia Andrews’ (as found in Mexico, Bourbon Islands, and Indonesia) and ‘Vanilla Tahitensis Moore’ (Tahiti). These two fall under the heading ‘Vanilla Fragans’, but are the only two which actually produce vanilla beans.


 


2) You discuss Mexican Vanilla Extract and the concerns of using it. It would be appropriate to note that only Mexican-made Vanilla is of any concern because of their lack of accountability and regulations within the Mexican food industry. The Mexican Vanilla Bean is of a very high quality and as long as the Vanilla Extract is produced according to US FDA regulations the product will be safe.


 


3) There is a Standard of Identity issued and regulated by the FDA that governs the manufacture of Pure Vanilla. This standard dictates what ingredients and in some cases how much of that ingredient is necessary in order for a product to be labeled as Pure Vanilla. Part of that standard dictates that any Pure Vanilla containing 35% or higher alcohol will be labeled as a Pure Vanilla Extract. Any Pure Vanilla containing less than 35% alcohol will be labeled as a Pure Vanilla Flavor. Both product are Pure Vanillas and if made correctly a single fold Extract and single fold Flavor should have the same flavor profile and strength. So, it is not necessarily the case that only good vanillas will contain 35% alcohol as you state.


 


4) The best indicators of a quality vanilla extract are the origins of the vanilla beans and the processing techniques utilized in producing a Pure Vanilla. Price can be a good indicator but it is often misleading.


 


5) You also state that if you pay less than $25 per quart it is probably synthetic. Again, the price of the product can be misleading. In addition, US food regulations require an artificial vanilla to be labeled as such. There should be no confusion when looking at vanillas and packaging between an artificial product and a Pure Vanilla.


 


6) Vanilla in Indonesia is grown throughout the various islands and not exclusively on Java. It is also grown on Flores and Bali to name only two additional islands. It is erroneous to state that Indonesian is primarily used in blending with synthetics. Many of the supermarket brand vanillas are actually Indonesian or blends of Indonesian and maybe a Madagascar. It also has some very good uses in large-scale industrial operations (i.e. ice cream production and baking) where all-natural ingredients are used. Indonesian vanilla is normally characterized as having a shallow flavor with harsher, earthy notes.


 


7) A vanilla tincture is equivalent to an extract. All a tincture means is it is an alcohol based product.


 


8) There are two forms of vanilla powder available on the market. There is the European version which is actually just ground up vanilla beans and there is the US version which is a liquid vanilla placed onto a carrier of some sort (i.e. dextrose or dextrin).


 


I hope this helps clarify some of your research. I appreciate the opportunity to help as well as your effort to educate the consumer.


 


Thank you, again, for the opportunity to review your newsletter. I also enjoyed your web site’s format and content.


 


Best Regards,


Matthew Nielsen, Vice President


Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc.


 


(From foodweb.com)


 



Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst


Edited 9/17/2003 4:07:25 PM ET by Meryl

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.

Meryl's picture

(post #28188, reply #8 of 11)

Okay, I did a little research. The Spice House, Penzey's offspring, sells double strength vanilla for less, $12.49, for 4 oz, but their shipping is $3.00 more ($7.95 shipping). In total, they're only about $3.50 less than Penzey's.  I checked out a company called KCJ - their prices were very, very good, but their website was ominous, couldn't find a phone number anywhere, just a PO Box and an order form. I don't trust a company I can't call and order directly from. Lastly, I checked out The Great American Spice Co, and their prices, including shipping, ended up being very close to the Spice House. As far as quality is concerned, I really don't know; the only one I've tried is Penzey's. I'm curious as to what kind of answer I get from Watkins regarding their fortified ingredients.



Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces. --Judith Viorst

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.