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Vanilla mints are classified as either a type of breath mint or a small candy. The primary ingredient in the mints is generally vanilla extract. Vanilla mints might also contain other ingredients to give them their mint-like flavor, such as peppermint. This type of candy is usually ideal for a person who is both a fan of vanilla and mint.
The two most common types of mint flavors are peppermint and spearmint. They are both derived from mint leaves, a type of herb. Peppermint is generally selected over spearmint when it comes to breath mints and candy, as this variation of mint is naturally sweeter than spearmint. Peppermint is used in vanilla mints to give the candy a hint of refreshment.
Peppermint extract is generally used in the manufacturing of peppermint-containing candies, including vanilla mints. The extract is derived from the oils of peppermint leaves. Peppermint extracts are generally found in alternative foods stores, and present a stronger flavor. Hot water used in steeping peppermint leaves can reduce the amount of mint flavor.
Vanilla extract is another main ingredient in vanilla mints. The extract is derived from the fermentation of vanilla beans. Sometimes sugar is added during the process so that the vanilla has a sweeter flavor. The process of making vanilla extract spans over a time of several months, and manufacturers usually make it in bulk.
The common cooking extract comes from the beans of an orchid flower called plantifolia. This orchid is found in South America, Central America, India, and some parts of Africa. Vanilla extract is commonly chosen over vanilla beans and sugar in vanilla mint manufacturing. The vanilla flavor is stronger in extract form.
There are different types of vanilla candies available on the market. Breath mints typically contain part vanilla extract and part peppermint. The peppermint is necessary to provide a minty fresh breath. Vanilla mints might be chosen over traditional mints by shoppers who prefer a sweetness in their breath mints. The vanilla flavor can also take the edge off of a strong mint flavor.
Vanilla sweets can also be derived solely of vanilla extract as well as other ingredients, such as sugar for sweetness. These mints do not contain any mint leaf extracts. Straight vanilla mints taste more like a rich candy compared to breath mints.
Some home cooks might choose to make their own vanilla mints. The process will likely come easier to a cook who has experience in making hard candies. Cooks might use caution when adding vanilla extract to peppermint-containing hot liquids. Extremely hot temperatures can cause a reduction in vanilla favor.
@Vincenzo -- that may well be true if you are using artificial vanilla extract. Pure vanilla extract should age well and you should not have the problems with preservatives that you do with the artificial stuff. Still, you do get a better flavor from vanilla beans. The reason they cost more is that you have to use a lot more of them to get the same flavor as vanilla extract.
Here's a tip for cooks (my wife found this out the hard way). You will get a more pure vanilla flavor from vanilla beans than vanilla extract. If you are making anything that requires any aging, it is almost mandatory to use vanilla beans because the preservatives in extract can go bad and result in pure nastiness after a time.
Of course, the downside is that vanilla beans are quite expensive compared to extract.