loveless vanilla bean in a cold climate
March 2, 2023 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I bought this green, raw vanilla bean from a food market in Oaxaca. The seller told me that if I "let it dry" for six months, it would be perfect to make extract. Previously I would buy dry vanilla beans to soak in a bottle of vodka for six months. But these have become wildly expensive as well as of poor quality. Now that I am home and looking up how to dry a raw vanilla bean, I see that I am well out of my depth, as well as in entirely the wrong climate (I live in Toronto.) Can anyone tell me a more feasible way to cure this one lonely vanilla bean? Or is this now just a souvenir?
posted by uans to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ok stupid question...can't you put the raw been in vodka? I would write to the woman who wrote the article and ask.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:25 PM on March 2

My home in Toronto is plenty dry right now.

I harvested some peppers from a plant and hung them by a kitchen window because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them. They're thoroughly dried now so my choice is now whether I want to chop or grind them up. If the seller said to let it dry then let it dry and see what happens.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:00 PM on March 2

This is really going to be mostly a souvenir and an experiment. Go ahead and try drying it out and see what you get. But no matter what, that one bean wasn't going to do much anyway. One bean is enough for about 2 oz of vodka for extract. That's not very much. FWIW, for a 750ml bottle of vodka, I used about 25 beans.
posted by hydra77 at 3:15 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]

If it smells good/like vanilla currently, you might be able make vanilla sugar with it -- look up recipes; I'm not sure whether a green bean would work or not.
posted by amtho at 4:01 PM on March 2

Hang it in the sunniest window you have and see what you can get. I bet it won't be bad, just not as rich and complex as you may be hoping for. Basically what hydra77 said. I personally would be curious to hear an update down the road, good luck!
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:18 PM on March 2

Response by poster: According to the website, curing is a complex business of sun and shade (and massage) over months and not just a matter of air-drying. It is interesting to read if you want to understand why vanilla costs so much
And how much can go wrong.
posted by uans at 7:30 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]

Vanilla beans: because orchids weren't difficult enough.

It's probably not anything you can use in food but it's still really cool. I'd let the bean air dry near a window somewhere and just enjoy the fragrance - it should still smell pretty lovely.
posted by ZaphodB at 8:58 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The article was super interesting! But also, producers of fancy vanilla are going to be inclined to talk up the process as much as possible. I'm sure the Wikipedia descriptions are oversimplifying it, but if you're not trying to optimize mass production of Grade A vanilla, there's probably some middle ground that doesn't require giving your bean a daily massage.

I don't know anything about this aside from reading the same stuff you've probably googled, but just some speculating:
The dipping and sweating stages seem like the most esoteric and annoying parts, but it also seems like they have to happen basically as soon as the beans are picked. From the photo, I think the bean you have might already be ready for the drying stage. The Handbook of Vanilla Science mentions several different methods involving air-drying, sun-drying, and oven-drying, so I think you probably could get something actually useable just by air-drying it in a window that gets partial sun and making sure it doesn't get moldy.
posted by yeahlikethat at 9:26 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]

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