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The Quality of Cured Vanilla Beans

By: Patrick Dunphy, vanilla consultant, and Krishna Bala, Firmenich (US)
Posted: September 23, 2011, from the October 2011 issue of P&F magazine.

The rationale for curing mature vanilla beans is to transform the ripe, flavorless pod into the microbiologically stable, full flavored, chocolate brown product or extract of commerce. The traditional curing process as practiced globally is divided into four principal and sequential phases. The first of these phases prevents post-harvest vegetative growth, bean splitting, and initiates the enzymatic reactions responsible for the production of aroma and flavor. The green vanilla pods are soaked in hot water (blanching, scalding, killing) as practiced in Madagascar, Comoros, India, Indonesia nd Uganda: placed in an oven, as in Mexico; or exposed to the sun, as employed in Papua New Guinea. The other stages are sweating (or fermentation), drying and finally conditioning. The biochemistry and chemistry of these different phases is not fully understood in details and is discussed elsewhere.

Quality Attributes of Cured Vanilla Beans

The principal elements in defining vanilla bean raw material quality are: 1. The genetic profile of the tissue 2. The nurture encompassing geographical origin of the raw material, location, soil, climatic and growing conditions 3. The maturity state of the tissue at harvest 4. The curing operation that generates the final product

The combination of the above elements contributes to the flavor of the final cured bean.

This is only an excerpt of the full article that appeared in P&F Magazine. The full content is not currently available online.