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Building a Vanilla Sweat Box

This arti­cle is an addi­tion to the 2‑part How to Cure Vanilla Beans arti­cle.  A crit­i­cal stage in the cur­ing of vanil­la is the “sweat,” where the enzy­mat­ic process that devel­ops the vanillin takes place. The sweat box cre­ates an envi­ron­ment that holds the beans at the opti­mal tem­per­a­ture for this process. In the How to Cure Vanilla Beans arti­cle, I describe how to put togeth­er an ad hoc sweat box using a cool­er and hot water bot­tles. In this arti­cle, I will describe how I built the elec­tri­cal­ly heat­ed sweat box used to han­dle larg­er quan­ti­ties of vanil­la pods.

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How to Cure Vanilla Beans, Part 1

I occa­sion­al­ly get ques­tions from peo­ple who are grow­ing their own vanil­la and want to know the best way to cure the beans. Getting a good cure out of your beans can be a lit­tle chal­leng­ing, but hope­ful­ly, this guide will make it eas­i­er. It is essen­tial that vanil­la be prop­er­ly cured in order to obtain the desired aro­ma and fla­vor from your vanil­la beans. Processing vanil­la beans is a mat­ter of sup­port­ing both the vanillin devel­op­ment and the slow dry­ing of the bean in order to pre­serve it.

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Sorting the Cured Beans

As the beans com­plete their cur­ing, they need to be inspect­ed, sort­ed, and pack­aged for long-term stor­age. We’ve been doing this for 2 months now, and some of the ear­li­est beans to go into stor­age are ready for sale or to be made into one of our vanil­la prod­ucts, such as extract or syrup. The beans are ini­tial­ly sort­ed into three groups: Grade A, Grade B and Extract. This is accord­ing to mois­ture con­tent and appear­ance. They are then vac­u­um-packed and will be aged in that state for 1–6 months. This year’s har­vest is our first big har­vest and we’re not quite sure how it’s all going to get mar­ket­ed. Of course there will be online retail sales, and per­haps a… (read)

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2018 Harvest Season Begins!

This is the first year we are get­ting a full har­vest out of the vanillery. It’s been a good year, growth-wise, maybe even too good. The vines are grow­ing so thick­ly now, it’s hard to see the beans for har­vest­ing. This har­vest sea­son actu­al­ly began on January 3, we missed a few ear­ly ones, but on that day I har­vest­ed 3 dozen beans. It seems to be com­ing in much ear­li­er this year. Last year’s first har­vest was in February some­time. I can only guess that the onset of the har­vest sea­son moves around a lot. Today’s har­vest was par­tic­u­lar­ly boun­ti­ful in terms of bean size. In the pho­to, I’m hold­ing one of the biggest beans I’ve ever seen, 240mm in… (read)

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Grading the 2016 Harvest

Took the beans out of their box today: it’s time to grade the har­vest. The last beans came off the open-air dry­ing racks two months ago, and they’ve been con­di­tion­ing in their box since then. The beans are grad­ed at this point, divid­ed into the two grades by size, mois­ture con­tent, and appear­ance. The grade A beans are bun­dled and placed in the con­di­tion­ing box for anoth­er 7 months, so there is a total of 9 months of con­di­tion­ing after the dry­ing is com­plete. The cured beans are sold to the culi­nary trade for direct use in recipes. They are brown in col­or and filled with fra­grant, oily “caviar,” the seeds and pulp of the vanil­la pod after cur­ing. This is… (read)

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