A few years ago, I happened to purchase a bottle of Nielsen-Massey Almond Extract at a Williams Sonoma. I was blown away by the quality. No offense to that other company that makes Almond Extract (you know, the one in the red box), but when I opened that bottle, the scent was amazing.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Neilsen-Massey that highlighted their Vanilla Extract. This family-run company has been in business for over 100 years, and it shows in the different kinds of Vanilla Extracts they sell. There’s Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, Mexican Pure Vanilla Extract, Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract, and Pure Vanilla Extract. Even though all are extracts from the vanilla bean, each variation has a slightly different nuance to it.
Their most popular product is the Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract. Contrary to what you might think, the word “Bourbon” in the product name doesn’t mean there’s actual bourbon in it–the name comes from the Bourbon Island of Madagascar where the vanilla beans are cultivated from. This is their best selling product because it’s a great “all purpose” vanilla that has sweet, creamy, and mellow flavor that you can use for cooking and baking.
The vanilla from Mexico, on the other hand, is sweet and creamy with a spicy character that’s good with spicy food, dark chocolate, and sauces, while the Tahitian tends to have a more fruity anise-like flavor that’s best with “cold” dishes and fruits.
I tried the Madagascar Bourbon, and just as with the Almond Extract, when I opened the bottle and smelled it, it was heavenly.
Coincidentally, I’ll be reviewing a cinnamon gift box from World Vision in my next post, so once I open that up I’ll be coming back here to post something I’ll be cooking with cinnamon and vanilla, two of the best spices for the holiday season.
One thing I never knew about Nielsen-Massey is that they’ve been family owned and operated for over 100 years. Chatfield Nielsen was a partner with Richard Massey in the early 1900s and today his grandchildren, Craig, Beth and Matt Nielsen, continue to run the company and continue to produce the best product you’ll find anywhere.
Something else that’s wonderful about this family is that along with their mother, Camilla Nielsen, they started The Nielsen-Massey Foundation, a foundation that exists to help disadvantaged youth and adults with education and leadership development. Because the family is especially passionate about the culinary arts, supported charities include:
Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP)
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate Association
French Pastry School
10% of all profits go toward helping these amazing causes.
If you’re like me, you’ll often purchase extract but let it sit in the cabinet for years. This isn’t a bad thing–according to this site, as long as you keep pure vanilla extract tightly sealed in a dark and cool place, it’ll last indefinitely.
Nielsen-Massey also has a bunch of recipes on their site that’ll help you use your vanilla while it’s at its freshest. While there were plenty of recipes for everything from sauces to desserts to drinks, one particular recipe caught my eye, as it wasn’t for food at all. Specifically, there’s this recipe for Vanilla Body Scrub:
Vanilla Body Scrub
- 1 cup Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Sugar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 or 2 drops of an essential oil such as lavender, eucalyptus, etc.
- Decorative, waterproof container
- Mix ingredients together in a bowl.
- Spoon into a decorative, waterproof container.
- Wrap in decorative paper.
I actually got a kick out of this, because I’ll sometimes pay top dollar for body scrubs without really understanding what’s in them. Turns out, it’s really just natural ingredients sugar (preferably , olive oil, and essential oil or extracts to give it scent (at least the best ones are).
If you’re looking for a high-end, high-quality gift that also happens to be economical, this can make a great gift.
If you’re looking to buy Neilsen-Massey extracts, you can find their products on Amazon, at Williams-Sonoma, or another store identified at their Web site. Speaking of their Web site, more great information about the product and more recipes can be found there.