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Is Vanilla Extract Gluten Free?

Pure vanilla extract is gluten free. That’s the answer to a question that’s asked often by people who are gluten intolerant, based on the fact that vanilla extract is made using alcohol and most alcohol is made from grain.

This is particularly good news for people living with celiac disease because vanilla makes the world a happier place.

Only use trusted brands of pure vanilla extract

Remember, only brands labelled as pure vanilla extract that use naturally-distilled alcohols are truly gluten free. Always read the label on a bottle of store-bought brands and avoid any product that does not meet the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) criteria for pure vanilla extract.

The FDA classifies vanilla extract as Pure if it contains a minimum of 35% alcohol (usually ethanol) and 100 grams per litre (13.35 ounces per gallon) of liquid. The rest of the solution should only be water. The FDA limits all other ingredients used in the manufacturing process to mimic the taste and aroma of vanilla.

FDA has paid particularly close attention to vanilla extract in recent years, largely because of the amount of fraud and false claims within the vanilla industry. At the end of the day, imitation vanilla extract is made using synthetic vanillin which is made from a by-product of the pulp industry.

Most imitation vanilla contains ingredients like corn syrup, artificial sweetener and/or colour dye to mimic the flavour and look of natural vanilla extract.

Why only pure vanilla extract is safe

The vanilla extract market is not well regulated and there are hundreds of imitation brands on the market that are made using harmful chemicals and preservatives which are obviously not good for you. Even some quality brands that meet the FDA requirements of pure vanilla extract use a cheap alcohol base to keep the price down.

Imitation vanilla extract is made from synthetic vanillin which is the compound that occurs naturally in vanilla beans and what gives the extract its distinctive aroma and taste. Synthetic vanillin is made using anything from coal tar, pine-park or fermented bran to cow poop and secretions from a beaver’s castor glands (near its anus).

More commonly, synthetic vanillin is made from lignin waste (wood polymer) which is a by-product of the pulp industry, mostly from the process of making paper.

You really don’t know what goes into imitation vanilla extract but we know for sure that in order to cut costs and meet the demand for vanilla flavouring, the products are not pure and contain harmful chemicals and preservatives.

On top of that, manufacturers of fake vanilla extract add ingredients like glycerine, invert sugar, glucose, propylene glycol and sugar to the solution. These either act as flavour enhancers or speed up the extraction process.

The other thing that’s added is caramel colour dye, otherwise imitation vanilla has no colour and stands out as fake against the rich, dark-brown colour of pure vanilla extract. The colour dye used in imitation vanilla may contain malt syrup from barley, starches from wheat and even lactose.

To be completely safe, particularly if you’re dangerously intolerant of gluten, we recommend you make your own homemade vanilla extract if you can’t find a trusted brand of pure vanilla extract.

Learn more about the uses of Vanilla Powder.

 

Why is pure vanilla extract gluten free if it contains alcohol?

It’s all about the distillation process.

To be gluten free, vanilla extract must be made using naturally distilled alcohol. The FDA allows distilled alcohol in foods labelled gluten-free regardless of the starting material which may be wheat, barley or rye. This is because the alcohol distillation process removes almost all traces of gluten making it safe to consume, much like distilled vinegar.

An ingredient derived from a grain containing gluten that has been properly distilled passes as a gluten-free product. Distilled alcohols are often labelled as “processed to remove gluten”, meaning the product was distilled from grains containing gluten where some or all of the gluten is removed.

To understand this better, here is an excerpt from The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide (Tricia Thompson, McGraw-Hill, 2008).

“Alcoholic beverages are either fermented or distilled. Fermented and distilled beverages are made by first converting starch or sugar from a food source (for example, grapes, wheat, or potato) to alcohol, using yeast.

With fermented beverages, such as beer, the liquid removed from the mash (the mixture of starting materials) is boiled. If a gluten-containing grain is one of the food sources used to make the mash, the liquid removed from the mash is not gluten-free.

With distilled beverages, such as vodka, the liquid removed from the mash is not only boiled but also distilled. Distillation is used to increase the alcohol content of the beverage. When the liquid is boiled, the vapour is “captured” and cooled.

The resulting liquid is called the distillate. Distillation separates substances that are volatile (meaning they vaporize) from less volatile substances. Protein is not volatile and does not vaporize. Consequently, even if wheat, barley, or rye was used to make a distilled alcoholic beverage, gluten-containing proteins will not be found in the final distillate.”

Is vodka gluten free?

This question is important because pastry chefs and home bakers usually use vodka to make homemade vanilla extract. This is because vodka has a neutral taste and doesn’t change the flavour profile of the dessert or detract from the natural taste and aromatic flavour of vanilla.

Most vodka is made from cereal grains that contain gluten, including wheat, barley or rye. As discussed, the distillation process removes the harmful gluten proteins, meaning vodka – and all other naturally-distilled alcohol for that matter – are essentially gluten free.

However, because vodka contains gluten-containing ingredients – the starting material – it is not permitted to be labelled as gluten free, even though no gluten is left in the product.

Did you know?

It’s easy to make homemade vanilla extract that’s gluten free… and it’s cheaper than store-bought

All you need are 3 to 4 fresh vanilla beans and 1 cup of naturally distilled alcohol. Most people use vodka and the brand with the highest proof of vodka, the better. Slice each vanilla bean lengthwise; open it up but keep the two pieces connected, leaving an inch intact on either end.

Place the split vanilla beans in a glass jar and pour the vodka over them. Close with a lid that seals tightly and leave in a cool, dark place for anything from 6 weeks to 3 months, allowing time for the gorgeous vanilla beans to infuse in the alcohol.

Gently shake the bottle regularly and replace the vanilla beans with fresh ones after a period of time. Homemade vanilla extract can last for up to a year and longer if stored correctly.

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WeekendLife

The King’s journal 

23rd November 2021
Kgafela Kgafela II

This book is a true-life story of an African King based in South Africa. The Last Frontier is a resistance stand by Bakgatla Ba Kgafela tribe and its line of Kings from 1885 against a dark force called ‘western democracy’ that is insidiously destroying lives, peoples, nations and threatens to wipe away whole civilizations in Africa.

The story flows through four important episodes of history, beginning in about 1885 when Bechuanaland Protectorate was formed. This section briefly reveals interactions between Kgosi Linchwe 1 and the British Colonial Government, leading to the establishment of Bakgatla Reserve by Proclamations of 1899 – 1904.

The second episode deals with Kgosi Molefi’s interaction with the British Colonial Government in the period of 1929-36. The third episode records Kgosi Linchwe II’s interactions with the British Colonial Government and black elites of Bechuanaland. It covers the period of 1964-66, leading to Botswana’s independence. Kgosi Linchwe ii resisted the unlawful expropriation of his country (Bakgatla Reserve) by Sir Seretse Kgama’s government of 1966 to no avail. He wrote letters of objection (December 1965) to Her Majesty the Queen of England, which are reproduced in this book.

The fourth episode covers the period between Kgafela Kgafela II’s crowning as King of Bakgatla in 2008 to 2021. It is a drama of the author’s resistance to the present-day Botswana Government, a continuation of Bakgatla Kings’ objection against losing Bakgatla country to the Kgama dynasty assisted by the British Government since 1885. The story is told with reference to authentic letters, documents, and Court records generated during the period of 1885-2019. There is plenty of education in history, law, and politics contained in The Last Frontier for everyone to learn something and enjoy.   

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WeekendLife

Gospel concerts make a comeback

16th November 2021
Bishop Benjamin Dube

Hailed for being the prime gospel concert after the Covid-19 pandemic had put events to a halt, Golden Relic, in conjunction with Sweet Brands, recently unveiled the Arise and Worship Concert, Botswana. The show marks the return of worshippers and fans to enjoy music and worship together after what seemed like “cooler box” events were taking over the entertainment scene. 

The concert to be held on December 11th 2021, at the Molapo Showcase, has a packed lineup with the Headlining acts being Bishop Benjamin Dube, Lebo Sekgobela from South Africa and Botswana’s very own Obakeng Sengwaketse. More international acts from Nigeria and Ghana are also expected to grace the event. The show organizers have invested an effort in diversifying the lineup with live performances. 

The promoter of the Arise and Worship Concert, David “DVD” Abram revealed in an overview of the event that; “We have lost a lot of loved ones this year, and when that happens, one’s spirit goes down, and we need a light to ground us once more, to heal our souls. Therefore, the two main purposes of this event are to do the work of God and, secondly, to make sure that we nurture and develop talent in Botswana. With challenges that come up with events of such magnitude, the team and I have been committed to seeking guidance from God through having night prayers.” 

Abram added that as promoters, they usually have a bias towards already established artists, thus neglecting the upcoming ones and wanting to change that. “We approached the Melody Gospel TV Show since we aim at nurturing new talent and agreed on having one of the winners as a headliner for the event to allow them to share the stage with gospel giants so that they are exposed to the industry. This resulted in securing the Second Winner of the Melody Gospel TV show; Thabiso Mafoko as a local headlining act.”

The concert also aims at celebrating a Motswana. Multi-Award Winner; with the most recent title; BOMU Best Traditional Gospel under his belt, also best known for his soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics, Obakeng Sengwaketse enthusiastically said, “I want to thank the organizers of the Arise and Worship concert, it means a lot to me after recently winning two awards that are currently the highlight of my career.

I regard this as a great revival because the Covid-19 pandemic has muffled events such as this. I am looking forward to sharing the stage with the great Bishop Benjamin Dube, Lebo Sekgobela and more artists from Nigeria and Ghana. Sengwaketsi urged Batswana to come and witness the greatness of the Lord as their lives will never be the same.”

Tickets are selling like fat cakes with VVIP tickets having only five tickets remaining; the VVIP tickets include rounder access backstage to all the performing artists. The event will also comprise a seated Gold Circle Ticket, which accounts for 50% of revellers to allow for easier enforcement of COVID-19 protocols and avoid a potential stampede.

In a bid to entice merrymakers to buy tickets, the promoters have come up with a layby strategy and buying tickets on an instalment basis for the attendees to be able to buy their tickets since the COVID-19 Pandemic has left many Batswana in financial ruin but having the interest to attend the event.

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WeekendLife

Fame vs Mental health

9th November 2021
Lizibo

One can only imagine what is like being in the public eye. It is not a walk in the park; and not as easy as people might think it is because of the pressure from the public. Celebrities or influencers are perceived to be perfect, perfect bodies, perfect families, perfect parents, financially stable, healthy, and always smiling and patient with everyone – Is this for real?

However, when people’s expectations of celebrities are not met, the same celebrities are often victimized, body shamed, or blamed, fairly or unfairly. As a result of them not having a personal life, they are often scrutinized in all aspects of their lives; their lives are aired for the public to see and judge. Celebrities are often extra careful about everything that they do, they have to go an extra mile as compared to how ordinary people live their lives.

To understanding this experiences by public figures, this reporter made a case study of Mr Lizibo Gran Mabutho, the firstborn in his family with only one sibling, his younger brother. Lizibo describes himself as a simple Kalanga guy who was chosen by music and did not choose music.

He said being raised by his mother and grandmother, he grew up surrounded by music from birth. Lizibo said his grandmother was a religious person who held church services at their house in Zwenshambe, “for me singing was from Monday to Sunday. I was not like any ordinary child who only sang at church on Sundays or sometimes in school assembly, for me it was a daily thing. My mother was also a talented dancer in our village that is what I mean when I say I did not choose music, but music chose me.”

Lizibo said though he grew up surrounded by music, it was hard for his parents to accept the path he has chosen to be a musician. Lizibo said he had to prove to his parents that music was his passion and that it could pay the bills like any other profession. He said eventually they saw his passion for music and supported him.

Lizibo said being exposed to music from a tender age made him venture into the music career from a tender age. He said he was part of the Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete (KTM) choir, Lizibo said being in the public eye for the longest time has taught him that he is living for the people and that he does not have a life. He said the very society that is watching him has so much expectation for him and that means he has to conduct himself in a good manner because people are looking up to him.

Lizibo said he understands the saying that great power comes with great responsibility, “when people see me, they see a role model. I realize and understand that people are and have been modelling me even when I was not aware of it, I know of six mothers who have named their sons after me because they felt that I inspire them somehow.”

He said he has accepted his fate that he will never have a normal life because people are looking unto him. He said he is grateful to be in the public on a positive note by bringing hope to the people because he has always wanted to be part of people’s solutions and not their problems.

He said, “people should understand that our careers are our calling. One needs to be spiritually connected to their calling as an artist. The most rewarding part about being in the public for me is not about payment but about being the solution to someone’s problem.”

Lizibo said the greatest challenge that he has ever faced about being in the public eye has been the issue of trust, not able to know which friends are genuine and which ones are not. He said as a way of avoiding fake friends he has always kept his four close friends who have been there for him through thick and thin. Lizibo said being close to his family has also helped him as they have been his strength when things were not going well for him, “most of the time people say we change when we taste fame. That is not necessarily true because people are the ones who changed when we became famous. People always want something from us, nothing is ever genuine with people and that is why I chose to keep my circle very small.”

Lizibo said as much as he travels a lot because of the nature of his work because it is naturally demanding, he said he always ensures that he creates time for his family. He said that at home he is Lizibo who is sent to do errands, he is Lizibo the son, not a celebrity.

He said there is a lot of pressure that comes with being in the spotlight, “the public puts so much pressure on us mostly about the material lifestyle they portray us to have. We are often compared with South African celebrities, but people fail to understand that we are two different countries. Most people fell into the trap and are living above their means resulting in them living in debt. I often tell youngsters not to fall into that trap of being tempted to live life above their means.”

The advice Lizibo gave to upcoming celebrities was that they should know that being in the public is not about them, but it is about the people. He said, “one of my mentors once asked me if I make music about myself or the people. He said I need to make music for the people because it is my responsibility to feed them with what they need, he said they might not even be able to know that they have a need but that I need to identify that need and meet it. Our responsibility is to serve people what they need, our music is to feed people’s hunger. My music is about love, I feed people love.”

Lizibo said it is important for celebrities to seek counselling and take care of their mental health, he said he has been investing in his mental health for years because he understands the importance of mental health especially when one is in the public.

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