What is Bourbon Vanilla?
Bourbon vanilla is the fermented capsule fruits of orchids of the genus Vanilla Planifolia that grow in Madagascar. The island of Madagascar and the island of Reunion are famous for their aromatic bourbon vanilla beans. However, the orchid plant originally comes from Mexico. Spanish seafarers brought them to Europe at the end of the 16th century, where they quickly established themselves as a popular spice. They were very popular for the preparation of aromatic drinking chocolates and later also for flavoring tobacco.
In the 19th century, the French and Dutch brought this orchid plant to their colonies. Around 1840, the French developed a method on the island of Reunion to fertilize the flowers of this orchid species Manuel. The first bourbon vanilla beans were born.
How to make bourbon vanilla beans
It takes three years before the orchid species Vanilla Planifolia starts to flower, from which vanilla beans can grow after fertilization. And it takes a little over a year from pollination of the flower to the pod. The entire manufacturing process is very time consuming and entirely manual.
The orchid flowers only bloom for 48 hours and then die. During this time, pollination must be carried out by hand. Here you open the flower carefully with a bamboo tool and then carefully press the stigma and the stamens of the individual flower against one another without crushing the flower. From this point on, the bean needs between 4-9 months until the vanilla beans are fully ripe. The pod is ready to harvest when its tip changes from green to yellow but is still absolutely odorless. Only after the lengthy processing process that is now beginning does the pod develop its seductive perfume.
From the harvest to the bourbon vanilla bean
Immediately after the harvest, the immature vanilla pods are heated in a water bath with a temperature of 70 ° C for 2-3 minutes. It must not be hotter; otherwise, the capsules could burst, and the harvest would be lost.
In the next step, they come wrapped in blankets for 2-3 days in wooden boxes, where the fermentation begins, and the aroma vanilla begins to form. Now the brown vanilla pods are still very oily and plump. Now they are left to dry for 2-3 hours a day over five weeks and then wrapped in towels to sweat again. Due to the loss of moisture in this process, approx. 4-6 kg of originally green vanilla beans produce only 1 kilogram of bourbon vanilla for retail.
Storage of bourbon vanilla
The storage of vanilla beans should be packed cold, dark, and airtight. If your pods dry out over time due to long storage, you can briefly put them in a warm water bath. Thus, they become soft again and are easy to process yet. You can also grind the dry pods and then use them as powder.