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Review: A Flavor of Vanilla

By: Patrick Dunphy, Flavor and Vanilla Consultant, and Krishna Bala, Firmenich
Posted: February 15, 2010, from the March 2010 issue of P&F magazine.

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  • From P&F Magazine
  • March 2010 issue, pg 42
  • 7 pages

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Vanilla bean curing is a traditional process that has been carried out for hundreds of years, originating with the Totonac tribe of Mexico in the early 16th century. A major stimulus to its global proliferation was the development of hand pollination and vegetative propagation in the 1830s. The process is fairly simple, comprising five stages—blanching (or killing), sweating (or fermentation), sun drying/night storage, rack drying and conditioning.

The Biochemistry and Chemistry of Curing

The curing process is a complex and multifaceted sequence of interventions that takes place over a period of about 150 days, turning an unflavored ripe vanilla bean containing ca. 80% water into a cured vanilla pod that is aromatic, dark brown and which contains a water content of 20–30%. The process involves elements of biochemistry, chemistry, wound response, plant senescence and plant microstructure/compartmentation, and as such requires an integrated approach.

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