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.
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.
Pranks, for a common man, is designated to the 1st of April- April fool’s day. Usually it’s the only day out of the entire 365 days one can make a fool of others and get away with practically anything, anything legal that is.
While there are fanatics who do it for amusement, there are some who do it to earn their daily bread and butter. Some obviously saw a niche to keep people fascinated especially in these emotionally straining times of COVID-19. For the record, they don’t play ordinary cards as you may think.
Their pranks are as big and as real as marriage wrecking and all the drama that comes along with it. Given Carter is not just your ordinary boy next door. The Tonota born prankster is currently taking the entire country on an emotional rollercoaster from the comfort of his home in Francistown.
At only 32-years, Carter BW’s skills of planning and executing a prank is what sets him apart from the rest. In fact one can go as far as to say that he’s the only prankster Batswana know.His ideas are unique and relevant, telling a tale that someone can sit and think about, perhaps learn from it because they are everyday life happenings that most people can relate to because they have a way of really hitting home.
In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, the versatile Given Carter (who is also a photographer) says the inspiration behind pranking was to introduce something not so common in Botswana, and challenge typecasts associated with art, especially modern art.
“Growing up, we only saw pranks on the television dominantly done by the whites. We never thought this is something we can do, or maybe we didn’t understand the logic behind it. But I guess, pranks are real life lessons we need, its only that they are shared in a more hilarious and sometimes obstinate way,” he said.
Given Carter told this publication that, he spends most of his time on the internet, learning more tricky skills. This is quite a remarkable observation because in this era of advanced technology, one doesn’t necessarily have to go to school to learn from the grassroot. The use of technology has made it easier for people to acquire skills and knowledge, and still do exceptionally well without being in class.
“Of course, a bit of it is common sense but I make use of the internet to learn more on how I can improve my craft. It is quite unpretentious to do a prank because they are real-life situations, so its not much of a big deal. I needed people to learn and I think I came at the right time because most people are online, and the reception is just incredible.”
He however shed light on his first video shot in Shakawe that went viral, subsequently leading to speculations of his crew’s arrest. Given Carter was however not arrested instead he was brought before the police for questioning.
“We were not arrested as people may think. We were called to write statements on what the prank was all about and we were released the same day. I believe maybe we went too far in what we depicted in the video because it’s something that the society is not yet ready to accept, but it has been happening for a long time,” he told WeekendLife.
In many Western countries, pranksters do this for a living through YouTube accounts and subscriptions. “As it is currently, I do not have a YouTube channel. I am still building a platform and I’m certain very soon it will be up and running. I am primarily focused on taking my craft to the people, and let people know more about what I do. So technically, it has been about familiarising people with the art.”
Even though that’s the case, Given Carter says there is room for paid partnerships and endorsements. After all, there is an entire crew which need money to pay the bills. He says with so much ideas spinning in his head, there is need for financial support to be able to dish out more seeing that people love his works and how realistic his pranks are.
Odirile Sento, popularly known as Vee together with Magadeline Lesolobe (Charma Gal) took the liberty of playing as big of a part as they could to consolidate some resources for musicians which might be of assistance during these trying times.
In these unprecedented times of the overwhelming and the deadly COVID-19, it is only critical that people stand together and remain committed to helping each other, being kind enough to lend a helping hand in any way possible.
The contagious virus left people confounded, deprived and depressed. The pandemic shuttered many economies, industries and the entertainment sector was no exemption. If anything, the entertainment industry took the biggest hit of all the sectors but this was a hit felt in every country in the world not just a local tragedy.
There were tear-jerking testimonies of creatives, in particular artists, suffering from extreme hunger as events were given a rain check. Technically, social events have been shut for sixteen months now.
There were series of protests calling for the immediate opening of the creative sector, in a phased manner. Some brave yet unfortunate artists were arrested for taking up arms and protesting the strict COVID-19 regulations placed on the entertainment sector.
When protests failed and their laments falling on government’s usual deaf ears, prominent artists Odirile Sento, popularly known as Vee together with Magadeline Lesolobe (Charma Gal) took the liberty of playing as big of a part as they could to consolidate some resources for musicians which might be of assistance during these trying times.
COVID-19 has created untold challenges for musicians in Botswana, but there are possibilities- challenges have a way of breeding solutions nonetheless.
In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife on Wednesday, Vee said the Battle to Develop Artists Welfare is aimed at inspiring artists to learn diversification, which has been lacking for quite a stretch amongst fellow artists. A lot of local artists depend solely on music, which on its own has been performing below par, and COVID-19 has brought that into clear view, showing how most artists in Botswana live off scraps, barely making money off their beloved passion- music.
“This project was born out of compassion. The world as it is now is experiencing a rough patch, and you can imagine how other artists are coping. It is really a struggle, and we saw it critical to jump on-board and help our fellow colleagues. It will help artists start small businesses, some will start short courses which will enable them to find employment in the long run.
For it to have weight, we incorporated it into a challenge on stage, performing our songs. We hope this will inspire business moguls to sponsor and pledge some monies towards this initiative,” said Vee.
Charma gal indicated that the live battle on stage has been supported with musical instruments, further indicating that this is a volunteerism project with no proceeds to gain from.
“We will divide and disburse proceeds to our fellow artists, I mean these are people we have been working alongside for so many years. There is no how we can be reckless towards them when we see how hard the situation is.
We are in this together, and we are going to stick together like that. Some have started already doing something, and meeting them half way is only fundamental,” Charma Gal told WeekendLife.
The duo stressed that Gaborone North Member of Parliament, Mpho Balopi, has pledged P50 000 towards this battle, further calling on other businessmen to come to the party. Vee says Balopi supported the initiative from the get-go, brushing aside allegations that the project is politically influenced.
Initiatives brought forward to aid the entertainment sector have caused controversy, with Vee emphasizing that not all artists will benefit from this particular charity cause. “We have artists who are struggling, and sadly so. Some of them were bread winners and there is no income coming in, making it hard for them to cope with the economic challenges.
There has been an increase in VAT recently, and such developments make the situation worse. Rigorous assessments will be done to identify our desired beneficiaries.”
Vee and Charma Gal will be battling it out on stage with the battle scheduled to take place on the 28th May 2021. Because events are still striped, the show will be online with COVID-19 protocols to be adhered to.
Early December last year, scores of disgruntled artists congregated at GSS grounds seeking government to address their plight in the face of the COVID-19 restrictions.
2020 was a depraved year for the local entertainment industry. Music festivals, large gatherings and concerts were given a rain check as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of the deadly Corona-virus. As for an industry that depends solely on events for survival, the move to shelf gigs was literally kicking a dog when it’s down.
There was no revenue coming in, and depression found its way into the already devastated industry. Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, was fingered in this muddle. He was censured for being hushed. The relief fund also sparked controversy, with many creatives of the belief that it’s prejudiced and impractical.
Early December last year, scores of disgruntled artists congregated at GSS grounds seeking government to address their plight in the face of the COVID-19 restrictions. The situation became chaotic as police officers told the artists that the gathering is illegal and that they should get a permit first. Artists decided to go the right way, applying for a permit to hold their meeting, and this time around in Old Naledi.
Creatives (most of which are BOMU members) came out swinging as they packed Old Naledi grounds in a show of strength against the COVID-19 Task team and politicians. But gathering a large crowd at the Old Naledi grounds was like playing a game of Russian roulette, as most of the attendees were potentially exposed to the Corona virus because there was no social distancing, wearing of masks, nor sanitization.
Artists however were clearly making their voices heard – they wanted their industry opened, but by the look of things the Task Force team will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat for this to be given the greenlight before another year comes to pass. Till date, the creative industry is still abandoned.
Following a series of protests, the custodian Ministry (MYSC) came up with virtual gigs and engaged artists for performances. However, this fuelled tension between upcoming artists and those who are already household names. In late December 2020, a group of young artists demanded answers from the Youth Ministry on how the so called ‘Big Artists’ secured virtual gigs from the Ministry.
A new BOMU Executive Committee was ushered in August last year which saw the Union and the custodian Ministry smoke a peace pipe. Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) is an organization that works as an intermediary between registered artists and the Youth Ministry.
On Friday (16th April 2021) at a press conference to launch the 10th BOMU music awards, BOMU President Phemelo ‘Fresh’ Lesokwane said the Union has effectively managed to rebuild and earn back trust with its stakeholders, including MYSC and De Beers.
“These two entities have been BOMU music awards’ top sponsors for the past 10 years. We have managed to revive the awards and appoint a person who I will refer to as a brand marketing specialist. There has been a lot of miscommunication peddled around and as a leader of BOMU, I will be irresponsible to ignore all of it,” Fresh said.
Fresh is definitely not MYSC nor Minister of Rakgare’s spokesperson, but he had this to say: “It is very important I clear up the distortion of facts out there. MYSC and BOMU leadership have been hard at work, and in the previous year, we managed to push 90% of our members to register with COSBOTS so as to benefit from the subsidy. For the matter of fact, this did happen.
BOMU says it managed to convince MYSC to fund their 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM). “The Ministry accommodated, paid all costs of accommodation and food for all the delegates who attended the AGM. This was a first for BOMU for as long as anyone can remember. I was so happy to see Minister Rakgare attending our AGM, which was for the first time also.”
Rakgare and his associates have been given a pat on the back for the national consultative meetings they took last year. They met with industry representatives and discussed calendar of events and how they should be rolled out. BOMU also pleaded with the Youth Ministry not to cancel events this year, and according to Fresh, the Ministry agreed.
“This is why they are helping with BOMU music awards and in due course, we will be calling the media to reveal the sponsorship. And on top of that, BOMU has access to the Minister and his circle of associates. They have their doors open for us, and we can’t be fighting with the Ministry while we see how welcoming it is to us. Lot of noise is made by non-BOMU members, which should be condemned in any way possible.
The Youth Ministry however, says it will engage on consultations with organizations, not individuals. This is why it is very important for artists to join BOMU now.”