About Vanilla Beans
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About Vanilla Beans
  Vanilla    Beans  
Last updated 6/12/2012 12:41:46 AM. Recipe ID 614. Report a problem with this recipe.
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      Title: About vanilla beans
 Categories: Information, Vanilla
      Yield: 1 Info file
           Information only
  The vanilla orchid is a member of the plant family known as
  Orchidaceae and is the only orchid that produces edible fruit. The
  beans grow on a thick vine that flourishes in warm, moist climates
  within 25 degrees of the equator.  The vanilla plant begins to bear
  fruit when it is three or four years old.  Eight to nine months after
  pollination, the beans are golden yellow and ready for harvest and
  It takes about five to six pounds of green, freshly picked vanilla
  beans to make one pound of properly cured beans. There are basically
  two ways to cure the beans: in the sun or over a fire. Using the
  solar method, beans are spread in the hot sun by day and wrapped in
  blankets and placed in wooden boxes by night. The sweating process is
  repeated over and over for six months, until the beans have lost up
  to 80 percent of their moisture content.  This method produces
  superior results and is used in Madascar, Mexico, the former Bourbon
  Islands, Tonga, and Tahiti.
  The wood-fire curing method, used in Indonesia and Bali, takes only
  two or three weeks, but produces a dry, brittle bean with a smoky
  flavor, generally considered inferior.
  When you buy a vanilla bean at your market, the black, oily, smooth
  pod you're buying is a cured bean.  When you purchase a bottle of
  pure vanilla extract, you're buying beans whose flavor components
  have been dissolved in a solution of water and alcohol.  By law, pure
  vanilla extract must contain at least 35 percent alcohol by volume.
  Anything less is labeled a flavor. Pure vanilla extracts come in a
  variety of folds, or strengths. The Food and Drug Administration has
  established that a fold of vanilla is the extractive matter of 13.35
  ounces of vanilla beans to a gallon of liquid. Strong, pure extracts,
  such as four-fold, are primarily used in mass food production.
  What about imitation vanilla? ~----------------------------
  Not only is pure vanilla expensive, but demand also far exceeds the
  world's supply of the real thing. Stepping in to fill the void is the
  chemist, who has come up with a variety of imitations made from
  synthetic vanillin, the organic component that gives vanilla its
  distinctive flavor and fragrance. Most synthetic vanillin is a
  byproduct of the paper industry, made by cooking and treating
  wood-pulp effluent. But since vanillin is only one of more than 150
  flavor and fragrance compounds found in pure vanilla, the chemist has
  yet to match the subtlety with which Mother Nature has endowed the
  real thing.
  How to tell a good bean when you see one.
  Quality is key.  To truly experience all the flavor and fragrance
  vanilla has to offer, you have to seek out quality beans and
  extracts. Generally speaking, look for beans that are supple and
  aromatic. Tahitian beans are moister and relatively short and plump,
  with thin skins and a floral aroma. Bourbon beans (so called because
  they originate in Madagascar, Reunion, and the Comoros, formerly
  known as the Bourbon Islands) are slightly dryer, contain more
  natural vanillin, and have thick skins (the flavor has nothing to do
  with bourbon whiskey.) Stay away from dry, brittle, or smoky-smelling
  beans.  Depending upon quality and variety, single vanilla beans
  retail from about $1.50 to $10 apiece. Vanilla beans should be kept
  at room temperature in an airtight container. Don't refrigerate them
  or they may develop mold. Vanilla beans last up to two years.
  Especially if you cook with it often, it is more economical to buy
  pure vanilla extract by the pint, or even the quart, and share it
  with a friend. The best pure extracts contain no caramel and
  artificial color and little or no sugar.  Store extract at room
  temperature, tightly closed. It will keep up to five years.

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Recipe ID 614 (Apr 03, 2005)

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