|dictionary | photo: Alex756|
What's castoreum? I'm so glad you asked. It's a food additive that appears in many of our favorite foods but especially in ice cream. It is used particularly in the following flavors: vanilla, strawberry and raspberry.
Sounds yummy right? I mean who doesn't like vanilla. Or strawberries. Or raspberries for that matter. Well, unfortunately for us castoreum is not really made from vanilla, strawberries or raspberries. And because it's made from a "natural" ingredient it doesn't have to be listed as castoreum on the label either. It's listed as a "natural flavor." I'm not exactly sure why this is...after all, vanilla is vanilla. Why use something else and label it "natural flavor?" I'm sure I don't have the answer but I do know that according to a number of different sources, and the Code of Federal Regulations, castoreum is an ingredient which is allowed in our food.
What is it made from? I promise you, you will never look at things the same way again.
What to do about this unappetizing state of affairs?
Personally I'm planning on hauling out my ice cream maker to make my own this season. I'm pretty sure I can't buy castoreum at the grocery store, and even if I could I wouldn't. Nope, just real old fashioned vanilla and fresh fruits for us.
You will need an ice cream maker to make your own. I have an old-fashioned hand crank machine. The kids are no longer young enough to be tricked Tom Sawyer style into cranking it. That's okay I could use the upper arm exercise. I do however confess to occasionally dreaming about this Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Attachment. But honestly I'm trying to cut down on the embarrassing number of appliances I have in my kitchen. If you don't have a Kitchen Aid, and don't mind cranking a little, this is a nice Donvier 1 quart which works well (we used to have one but it got lost in a move).
I love this recipe from David Lebovitz. Which reminds me, I need to run to Penzey's one of these days to get some vanilla beans. Here's another recipe for vanilla ice cream which is a little simpler if you don't want a custard style.