Madagascar Vanilla Bean Bourbon Curing Process

By Chad | October 1, 2019

Introduction

Vanilla beans don’t start the dark, crispy looking form you normally get them as today. Before they even get close to that they go through at a 9-month process that gives them they’re black color and wonderful aroma. 

The bean begins as a green color that fades into a yellow tip and like most berries and fruits once it’s picked they stop ripening. To control how the bean ripens they put it through a curing process. This changes the chemical structure of the bean and gives it the buttery aroma and flavor that is put into billions of baking products and cosmetics. 

The most common of these curing processes is called the bourbon curing method and this is done in four steps. These steps keep the temperature of the beans controlled. These controlled temperatures cause the enzymes to convert the pectin and starches that naturally form while it grows to sugars that cause the pod's cell walls to soften.

The Four Stages of the Bourbon Curing Process

Dipping

First, we start with the dipping process that takes the newly harvested beans and puts them into water that is boiled. The temperature is somewhere around 160 degrees Fahrenheit from either 30 seconds up to 3 minutes depending on the size and quality of the pods.

Sweating

After the pods have been dipped and boiled they move onto the next step called Sweating. This process they quickly wrap the pods in wool and store them into a dark airtight container to trap the heat and steam inside the pods. This must be done fast so the enzymes can convert the cellulose to vanillin so the beans inside the pod can get that nice vanilla aroma.

Drying

The next step they start drying the beans by setting them out in sun during the day and keeping them locked up at night or during rainy or cloudy days so they won’t be stolen or ruined. No longer wrapped up so that moisture doesn’t get trapped in the pod and cause mold, workers message each pod so that drying can happen evenly. This usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to make sure each pod has about a 30% moisture content and doesn’t dry out too much and split.

Conditioning

The fourth and last step is called conditioning where the pods are placed in wax paper-lined boxes for around a month. This is so that the flavor and aroma of the vanilla bean can settle and prepare to be shipped out all around the world. A lot of the time the conditioning step and the shipping process happen at the same time.

Thanks for reading!

After all that hard work and time the pods have their usual dark color and the beans are potent with flavor and have a very strong aroma. Covered in natural oils and white vanillin crystals the pods are ready to be cracked open and the beans inside scooped out for the various uses.

If you’re stumped on what you could put vanilla in then head on over to the Lone Goose Bakery recipe page and take a look at the delicious dishes we’ve put up. After you’ve made up your mind on what to make you can go over to the product page as well and purchase Vanilla Beans or any of our other products like our Blue Bird Poppy Seeds™.

Thank you for your time!

-Chad

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