VANILLA BEANS CURING TECHNIQUES
GROWER SUPPORT SYSTEMS
VANILLA beans- GREEN
Collect the matured beans when you see the tip turning little yellow and when you feel the growth phase is completed.
CURING OF VANILLA BEANS
the appearance, the flexibility and size characteristics have been
of importance since there is fairly close relationship between these
factors and the aroma/flavour quality. Top quality beans are long,
fleshy, supple, very dark brown to black in colour, somewhat oily
in appearance, strongly aromatic and free from scars and blemishes.
Low-quality beans are usually hard, dry, thin, brown or reddish-brown
in colour and possess a poor aroma. The moisture content of top
grade beans is high (30 to 40 per cent), whereas it may be as little
as 10 per cent in the lower grades. At one time, the presence of
a surface coating of naturally exuded vanillin crystals
TRADITIONAL CURING METHODS
A number of procedures have been evolved for the curing of vanilla but they are all characterised by four phases :
or wilting: This stops further vegetative development in the
b) 'Sweating': This involves raising the temperature of the killed beans to promote the desired enzymatic reactions and to provoke a first, fairly rapid drying to prevent harmful fermentations. During this operation, the beans acquire a deeper brown coloration and become quite supple, and the development of an aroma becomes perceptible.
Depending on the bean quality sun drying for 7 days from 11 am to 2 pm is done and once the bean temperatures raise to 50* C the beans are wrapped in woolen blanket and stored in wooden chests.
d) In the
final stage, known as 'conditioning', the beans are stored in
The two most important of the various traditional procedures for curing vanilla beans are those of Mexico and the Indian Ocean islands producing 'Bourbon' vanilla.
'Sun-wilting'- On arrival at the curing house, the fresh beans may be set aside in a store for a few days until required and during this time the beans start to shrivel.
The fresh beans first have their peduncles removed and are then sorted according to their degree of maturity, size and into unsplit and split types. This is done as the various sorts cure at different rates. Beans, which are already beginning to darken, are removed, wiped with castor oil and are cured separately.
are killed by exposing them to the sun for a period of about five
hours on the day after sorting. The fresh beans are spread out on
dark blankets resting on a cement patio or on wooden racks. In the
afternoon, the beans become too hot to hold by hand and are then
covered by the edges of the blanket. In the mid-to late afternoon
before the beans have begun to cool, the thick ends of the beans
are laid towards the center of the blanket and rolled up. The blanket
rolls are immediately taken indoors and are placed in blanket-lined,
air tight mahogany boxes to undergo their first 'sweating'. Blankets
and matting are placed over the sweating boxes to prevent loss of
heat. After 12 to 24 hours, the beans are removed and inspected.
Most of the beans will have begun to acquire a dark-brown colour
indicating a good 'killing'. Beans which have retained their original
which have been properly killed, are next subjected to a
Very slow drying indoors lasts for approximately one month and a further sorting into grades is usually carried out during this time. The beans are regularly inspected and those, which have achieved the requisite state of dryness, are immediately removed from the racks for 'conditioning'. The overall sweating and drying operation may take up to eight weeks from the time of 'killing', according to the prevailing weather conditions. Small and split beans are usually ready for conditioning earlier than perfect, large beans.
for conditioning are sorted again and are straightened by drawing
them through the fingers. This operation is also useful in that
it spreads the oil, which exudes during the curing process and gives
the beans their characteristic luster. The beans are next tied into
bundles of about fifty with black string. The bundles are wrapped
in waxed paper and are placed in waxed paper lined, metal conditioning
boxes. Conditioning lasts for at least three months and during this
period the beans are regularly inspected. Mouldy beans are removed
for treatment (see later) and those, which are not developing the
required aroma may be re-subjected to 'sunnings
In this procedure, use is made of a specially constructed brick
or cement room, known as a calorifico, which serves as an autoclave.
The beans to be killed by this method are divided into piles of up to 1000 and are then rolled up in a blanket, which is finally covered with matting to form a malleta. The malletas are moistened with water and are placed on the shelves in the calorifico. Water is poured onto the solid floor to maintain a high humidity, the door is closed and the heating fire is lit.
12 hours, the temperature inside the calorifico reaches 60 °C.
On removal from the calorifico, the matting is quickly stripped from the malletas and the blanket wrapped beans are placed in sweating boxes. After 24 hours, the beans are removed and inspected.
The killed beans are then subjected to repeated sunnings and sweatings, as described above under 'Sun-wilting'. Should the weather be overcast, the killed beans are stored on racks indoors in a well-ventilated room until sunning is possible. However, if the weather does not improve within three days, the batch is reprocessed through the calorifico and sweating box.
The Bourbon curing technique is distinguished from those of Mexico in that 'killing' is achieved by scalding the beans in hot water and fewer sweatings are undertaken. The Bourbon product usually has higher moisture content than the corresponding Mexican grade and is frequently frosted. As in Mexico, curing of vanilla is carried out by specialist firms rather than by the vanilla growers. Slight variations in the curing technique are practiced in the various producing islands and the following is a description of the procedure evolved on Madagascar:
at the curing factory, the beans are sorted according to the
The next stage of sun-drying is carried out on a plot of dry, easily drained ground, at some distance from roads to avoid contamination by dust. The killed beans are spread out on dark cloths resting on slatted platforms, constructed from bamboo and raised 70 cm above the ground. After one hour of direct exposure to the sun, the edges of the cloth are folded over the beans to retain the heat. The cloth-covered beans are then left for a further two hours in the sun before the blanket is rolled up and taken indoors. This procedure is repeated for 6 to 8 days until the beans become quite supple.
stage involves slow drying in the shade for a period of 2 to 3
of the beans is carried out in a similar manner to that
to the traditional Bourbon curing method was devised in Puerto Rico
in the 1940s and was adopted by the vanilla co-operative at Castaner.
On arrival at the factory, the beans are sorted into split and unsplit
types and are then killed as soon as possible. Prior to killing,
the beans are wiped with a damp cloth. Scalding entails three 10-second
immersions at 30-second intervals in a water bath at 80 °C.
After draining, the beans are wrapped in a blanket and are placed
in a sweating box. Killing is followed by daily two-hour sunnings
and overnight sweatings for about seven days until the beans become
supple. The next stage of indoor air-drying is continued until the
beans reach one-third of their original weight. The beans are then
bundled and conditioned in tin boxes until they
methods for V. fragrans :
Two other methods, which tend to provide a poor-quality product, are the 'Guiana method' and the 'Peruvian process'. The' Guiana method' involves killing the beans by placing them in the ashes of a fire until they begin to shrivel. On removal, the beans are wiped clean, rubbed with olive oil, the lower ends are tied with string to prevent splitting, and they are then left to dry in the open air. In the 'Peruvian process', the beans are killed by immersion in boiling water and are then tied at the ends and hung up in the open air. After drying for about twenty days, the beans are lightly smeared with castor oil and are tied in bundles a few days later.
No distinctive local method of curing appears to have been evolved in Java. Modifications of the Mexican and Bourbon methods were commonly used but in general less care seems to have been taken in curing and grading. The quality of the Java product has never compared favourably with those of Mexico or the Bourbon producers.
of Tahiti vanilla
On receipt by the curing firms, the beans are placed in piles, which are turned daily. Beans, which are entirely brown, indicating that vegetative life has ceased, are removed for sweating and drying. The 'killed' beans are spread out on blankets resting on raised, wooden racks and are exposed to the sun for three to four hours. The warm beans are then rolled up in the blanket and are placed in a sweating box overnight. This process is repeated for fifteen to twenty days with progressively less frequent overnight sweatings. Finally, the beans are left outside in layers 10 cm deep to dry in the wind. When at the requisite state of dryness, beans are removed from the racks and are placed in large crates.
Most beans are sorted and sold shortly after drying has been completed and without any lengthy 'conditioning' period. The main harvest is collected during February and March and drying is usually completed during July and August. If the beans are kept for a long period before sale, they are stored in tins.
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