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 Réunion are famous for their aromatic bourbon vanilla pods.
However, the orchid plant originally comes from Mexico. Spanish sailors brought them to Europe at the end of the 16th century, where they quickly established themselves as a sought-after spice. They were very popular for preparing aromatic drinking chocolates and later also for flavoring tobacco.
In the 19th century, the French and Dutch brought this orchid plant to their colonies. On the island of Réunion, around 1840 the French developed a process to fertilize this orchid species Manuel's flowers.
Thus the first Bourbon vanilla pods were born.
How do you make bourbon vanilla pods?
Vanilla Planifolia even produces its first flower before the orchid species, from which vanilla pods can grow after fertilization, three years pass. And from the fertilization of the flower to the pod it takes a little over a year. The entire manufacturing process is very time-consuming and entirely handcrafted.
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 individual flowers stamens against each other without crushing the flower bud.
The beans need between 4-9 months for the vanilla pods to mature entirely from this point on. The bean is ready for harvest when its tip changes from green to yellow, but it is still absolutely odorless.
Only after the lengthy processing process that has now started does the pod develop its seductive perfume. From the harvest to the bourbon vanilla pod Immediately after the harvest, the unripe vanilla pods are warmed up in a water bath at a temperature of 70 ° C for 2-3 minutes. It cannot be hotter; otherwise, the capsules could burst, and the harvest would be lost.
The next step is to wrap them in blankets and place them in wooden boxes for 2-3 days, where fermentation begins and the aroma-giving vanillin begins to form.
Now the vanilla pods are brown, however, still very oily and plump. They are then placed in the sun to dry for 2-3 hours a day over five weeks and then wrapped in towels again to sweat. Due to the loss of moisture in this process, approx. 4-6 kg of originally green vanilla pods only produce 1 kg of bourbon vanilla for retail.
Storage of Bourbon Vanilla
Please store the Vanilla pods in a cold, dark, and airtight manner. 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 can be quickly processed again. You can also grind the dry pods and use them as a powder.