A Century of Flavor: Chicago's Nielsen-Massey Vanillas

null Vanilla? Yes, for over 100 years, a Chicago area family has been making pure vanilla. The Nielsen-Massey vanilla plant www.nielsenmassey.com was once located in Lincoln Park, but when the business outgrew that facility, it moved to Waukegan. The third generation of Nielsens now runs the business, supplying vanilla and other flavorings to food manufacturers, chefs and foodies around the world.

Vanilla is the only fruit-bearing member of the orchid family. Vanilla plants, native to Mexico can only grow near the equator, which means you won't find any vanilla plantations in Chicago. The finest vanilla comes from Mexico, Tahiti and Madagascar. Vanilla beans are hand pollinated on family plantations. At the time of harvesting, the vanilla bean pods are green and have absolutely no characteristic vanilla flavor or aroma. It is only after the curing process, which can take up to six months, that the vanilla beans turn brown in color and the flavor and aroma develops. That's when the Nielsen-Massey steps in to transform the vanilla beans to pure vanilla, as well as vanilla extract, paste, powder and sugar. Much of that work is done here in the Chicago area. There is another plant in the Netherlands

In honor of the company's 100th anniversary, Beth, Craig and Matt assembled a vanilla-inspired cookbook A Century of Flavor. Featuring both sweet and savory recipes, it was recently named the Best Corporate Cookbook in America in the Gourmand World Cookbook competition. The cookbook is filled with family recipes and some created by celebrity chefs. It now qualifies for Gourmand Best in the World, which will be announced in May. The winner in each country will compete against winners in the same category during this international competition. Founded in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau, the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards have helped readers discover the best out of the thousands of food and drink books published around the world each year. In 2007, Gourmand received over 6,000 cookbooks from 107 countries. There are 41 categories for cookbooks and 18 for drinks.

"This award means so much to all of us at Nielsen-Massey. A Century of Flavor was truly a labor of love, dedicated to 100 years of Nielsen-Massey family members and employees devoted to creating the finest quality pure vanilla and pure flavor products." says Craig Nielsen, CEO of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas and third generation owner with siblings Beth and Matt.

From the delicately sweet flavorings in pastries and Crème Brûlée to the essential savory notes in lobster sauce or spicy shrimp, A Century of Flavor is filled with 50 of the most tantalizing recipes, highlighting the intricate, yet delicate flavors of pure vanilla and is written for the novice cook as well as the seasoned chef. The cookbook also includes recipes using many Nielsen-Massey pure flavor extracts such as lemon, chocolate and orange. Exquisite photography and helpful cooking tips accompany each easy-to-follow recipe.

The cookbook includes inspired creations by culinary masters: Flan Clásico de Vanilla by Rick Bayless, owner of Frontera Grill / Topolobampo in Chicago; Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from The French Pastry School, Chicago; Vanilla-Almond Panna Cotta with Apricot Sauce by Biagio Settepani, owner of Bruno Bakery and Pasticceria Bruno in New York; and Ina's Vanilla Bean Pound Cake by Ina Pinkney, owner of Ina's in Chicago.

A Century of Flavor can be purchased online at CookbookMarketPlace.com, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

The full line of Nielsen-Massey's Pure Vanilla products include: Vanilla Beans and Extracts from Madagascar, Tahiti and Mexico; sugar and alcohol-free Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder; Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste; Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Sugar and Certified Organic Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Beans and Powder.

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas recently introduced a new line of pure flavor extracts: Pure Chocolate Extract, Pure Almond Extract, Pure Orange Extract, Pure Lemon Extract, Pure Coffee Extract, Peppermint Extract, Orange Blossom Water, Rose Water. All Nielsen-Massey products are certified Kosher and Gluten-free.

You can buy Nielsen-Massey products at Whole Foods, Sur La Table, Treasure Island, William-Sonoma and other retailers. For locations and more information on Nielsen-Massey, visit www.nielsenmassey.com or call US: 800-525-PURE (7873).

VANILLA FUN FACTS FROM www.nielsenmassey.com

Vanilla can be fun and can do more than flavor your favorite ice cream or cookie recipe. Here are a few fun milestones in vanilla history and some tips and tricks about using vanilla.


Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing vanilla to the United States in the late 1700s. While serving as Ambassador to King Louis XVI of France, he became familiar with vanilla beans, and brought 200 vanilla beans back with him when he returned to the United States.

Ice cream was becoming popular before the Revolutionary War, being served in New York City confectionery shops.
George Washington liked ice cream and kept two pewter ice cream pots at Mount Vernon during his presidency from 1789-1797.
Dolly Madison created a sensation when she served ice cream as a dessert in the White House at the second inaugural ball in 1812.

The first ice cream cone was produced in New York City in 1896 by Italo Marchiony, who emigrated from Italy in the late 1800s, and was granted a patent for his special mould in December, 1903. In 1904, the ice cream cone was introduced at the St. Louis World's Fair when a Syrian waffle concessionaire named E.A. Hamwi started rolling waffles into the shape of a cone for the benefit of an ice cream vendor who occupied an adjoining booth. It has remained a favorite to this date, with billions of cones consumed each year.


A few drops of vanilla in a can of paint will help eliminate unpleasant odors! A vanilla bean under your car seat gives a fresh aroma and helps eliminate musty odors.

A teaspoon or so of vanilla in Italian tomato sauces or Mexican chili helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes!

The United States consumption of vanilla beans is approximately 1,200 tons per year! In baking, cream the vanilla with the shortening or butter portion of the ingredients. The fat encapsulates the vanilla, preventing it from volatilizing in the baking process. Vanilla beans are hand-pollinated, on family plantations.

The entire vanilla cultivation process, from planting to market, can take from five to six years!

Vanilla extract is used by veteran fishermen to mask the smell of their hands so the fish won't detect them!

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