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Vanilla is a wonderfully versatile spice that can be used in sweet desserts, savory meals and beverages. It is also used in perfumery, cosmetics and even pharmacology, as its applications are numerous.

If its cost has already slowed down your hedonistic explorations, our prices will ensure that only the limits of your imagination are a brake on its use.

How to recognize the quality of vanilla:

  1. Before you buy a vanilla bean or beans, smell it. No matter where it comes from, it should have a pleasant, appetizing aroma. Reject any pods that have no scent or that smell like olive pits. These are immature pods or pods spoiled by poor storage.
  2. Reject vanilla pods with a sour or vinegary smell: they have not been refined and will have fermented. Don't try to use them to make extract, it will be spoiled.
  3. Reject vanillas with contaminant notes. Vanillas from new vanilla-exporting countries are sometimes coated with shoe wax to color the pods black.
  4. Reject vanillas that appear to be wet or covered with a large amount of oil, as they may have been coated with vegetable oil. A well-prepared vanilla will show the presence of vanilla essential oil on the surface (especially at the feet), but this is a very fragrant oil, and therefore very distinct from the vegetable oil. What's more, this essential oil becomes resinous on good-quality vanillas. Beware of vanillas from new exporting countries, too. They extract the essential oil from the pod using a vacuum-packing process, but this reduces the pod's ability to fight mould and other bacterial attack, and does not replace refining.
  5. Reject any pods that show traces of white mold on the surface. You won't miss them if they have large white or yellow foamy patches, but look out for white spots on the base or head hook before they become unsalvageable.
  6. If packed in a modified atmosphere (carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2) - odorless, colorless, accepted by organic certification), they can have a moisture content of 35 or even 38% and offer wonderful fragrances; but in bulk avoid them unless you're used to storing vanillas of this quality or have an immediate project. Because of our extremely changeable climate, vanilla preservation is the number one challenge for vanilla specialists in Quebec. So, if you buy vanilla in bulk, don't take the chance of losing it, and choose one that's a little drier, but soft enough to be wrapped around a finger without breaking.
  7. Finally, it's better to use a dry vanilla than one that has gone mouldy. Dry, brittle vanilla forgotten in the back of your cupboard can still amaze you! Rehydrate it for 4 to 6 hours and you'll be amazed at the happiness it can still bring you.

During the winter months, the vanilla you bring back from your favorite market may be subject to a little condensation due to temperature changes between the market and your kitchen. If there's a little moisture on the surface, let it air-dry for 24 hours before storing it in a glass jar the right size for your bunch of vanilla. Keep an eye on it for a few days to make sure there's no mold growth.

If you notice a white spot, remove the affected pod to avoid contaminating others. Rub the white spot and use it quickly. If you don't have the time, split it in two and dip it in your bottle of rum (which won't complain!!) or put it in your sugar jar. You'll stop fungal growth and get great vanilla sugar!

Likewise, once your bean has dried in the sugar, grind it with the remaining sugar and you've got a great vanilla sugar for baking.

If none of these methods are at hand, simply dry the bean to stop fungal growth. The quickest way to do this is to turn on your stove for a few minutes, then turn it off and leave the free bean to dry in the remaining heat of the stove. Your dry pod can be used without a press at a later date, either rehydrated or ground into a powder.

Vanilla shelf life

Properly preserved, vanilla will continue to refine and develop its aromas for years.

A quality ripening period lasts eight months, sometimes even two years, as on Reunion Island, but it has become very rare for producing countries to ripen vanilla for such a long time, which is why Colibri Vanille continues ripening on its premises until it is delivered to our sales outlets, or we send it to you by post in modified atmosphere bags, and in bubble envelopes to limit sudden temperature changes.

How to use natural vanilla beans

Whilethis may seem a surprising question to Europeans, in America it's more common to use vanilla extract in the kitchen. So a few brief explanations are in order.

The most fragrant particles in vanilla are found inside the bean. The seed, commonly known as the vanilla caviar, is removed from the bean by splitting it in half with a sharp knife blade, and scraped off to be deposited in the device that will carry the flavor and bind it to the food.

The pod itself also carries many of the aromatic molecules passed on to it during the maturing process, so please don't throw it away! You can dip it in your Rhum arrangé or your table sugar, but you can also dip it in your bottle of vanilla extract, which will be enhanced, or in a jar of neutral alcohol to make your own homemade extract (extract making is on another page of this website).

In your homemade preparations, it's the heat, the sugar or the alcohol that diffuses the vanilla fragrance. To extract the maximum flavor from the bean, you can also grind it completely with a food mill in oil, water, alcohol, milk, sugar or honey syrup - whatever comes to mind - and then heat it for at least 20 minutes before use. Soaking your device for 12 hours can also prove very fruitful, if you have the time. Then filter for sauces, pastries, smooties, etc., but you can also use the whole device containing the crushed pod in your cakes, muffins etc. Vanilla is entirely edible, although most recipes only use caviar.