Its simple–If you know how to store vanilla beans correctly, they can be kept indefinitely. In fact, if you treat your beans with a little love, they continue to age and mature over time and the fragrance along with it. With ageing, the fruit’s volatile compounds continue to interact with one another, further contributing to each bean’s unique flavour profile.
How to store vanilla beans
Store vanilla pods in a dark place at room temperature. Ideally in a temperature range between 15 – 25 degrees Celsius. Never refrigerate or freeze vanilla beans as this can dry out the pods and prevent the pods from continuing to cure.
Keep your precious vanilla beans sealed in an airtight container to prevent moisture loss. A dark glass jar or glazed ceramic jar that blocks sunlight is ideal. Find a container that is a snug fit for the beans without to much air circulating inside. This will help keep moisture loss to a minimum. Avoid plastic containers as the plastic volatile compounds can mingle with those from the vanilla pod, thus affecting the flavour of your finished dishes.
Vanilla beans should not be vacuum packed. Firstly, because the bags are generally plastic it can taint the pure flavour of your beans. Secondly, vacuum packing can degrade your vanilla by squashing out the air , and with it the volatile compounds and flavour housed within the beans. Most importantly, it has also been found that beans can be exposed to bacterial degradation in an anaerobic environment.
Plump Pods organic vanilla beans come in the ideal packaging to keep your pods fresh, even after opening. The resealable aluminium-lined opaque packaging will keep the pods fresh in your pantry for years.
Treat your vanilla like a quality cigar
Just like cigars, Vanilla should be aired regularly to ensure they are not sweating and forming mould, or that they are drying out. Be sure not to confuse mould with the shiny, reflective crystals of vanillan that can form on the outside of your vanilla. This is an indication of quality beans.
Buy small quantities of vanilla beans, more often
Whilst carefully stored vanilla beans can be kept indefinitely, it is generally it is recommended to only buy small quantities of vanilla that will be consumed within 2 years. Buying smaller quantities, more often, ensures you are working with the freshest pods that are moist, plump and full flavoured. Vanilla beans forgotten in the pantry for too long will inevitably dry out.
If the beans dry out, some of the the precious vanilla flavor can evaporate with the moisture. Thus it is ideal to prevent too much moisture loss. Not only can the flavour deteriorate, but it is also harder to work with the beans as they become dry, stiff and brittle. A supple plump pod is much easier to split to scrape out its caviar into your gourmet dishes.
How to rehydrate dried vanilla beans
Even a dried vanilla bean can be resurrected for use in your cooking. If a vanilla bean has become too dry to easily split and scrape, you can soak it in hot (not boiling) water for up to a couple of hours. This allows the leathery skin of the bean to soften and plump up. Only a very small amount of flavour will be lost from the outside of the pod. But the pod can now be easily split with a knife to access the seeds inside. If you are not intending to use the vanilla pod straight away in your cooking, pat it dry and store carefully.
It is best to use these rehydrated vanilla pods soon after soaking as they will be at greater risk of growing mould. If they are oily pods, ensure the outside of the pod is evenly coated in its own oil to help protect it.
Another way to make use of a dried vanilla bean is to chop it up in pieces with scissors or a knife and drop it into sugar, alcohol, dessert syrup, milk or cream. Over time, or with heat, the pods will impart their delicious fragrance into the ingredients.
Dried vanilla beans can also be ground up to unlock the flavour. This can be done in a spice mill or coffee grinder. The ground vanilla bean powder can be used in substitution for the whole bean and seeds in your recipes.
What to do with a mouldy vanilla bean
Quality vanilla beans still have fairly high levels of moisture in them. Sometimes these beans can develop surface mould, particularly if they are not aired regularly.
If you find mould on your beans you do not need to discard them. Vanilla beans are expensive and too precious to just throw out. Vanilla beans have a thick leathery skin and it is relativity simple to wash the mould off under a tap. You can use a clean toothbrush to scrub the surface gently to remove as many spores as possible. Pat the beans dry with a clean paper towel, then leave on the bench for an hour or so to ensure the bean skin is completely free of water.
Vanilla beans have natural oils which come to the surface when rubbed. You can gently massage the dry bean to try and release some of these oils to coat the surface . This can help protect the bean and prevent the spore from returning in a hurry. Alternatively, you can use a flavourless vegetable oil to brush a minute amount of oil over the surface of the pods to seal them.
Unfortunately mould spores are nearly impossible to remove altogether and are likely to come back over time. It is wise to use these pods first and as soon as possible.
Be sure to store any vanilla beans that have been mouldy away from other beans to prevent the spores spreading.
Plump Pods ‘keep-fresh’ pouch
Plump Pods organic vanilla beans come in their own special opaque pouch protected from damaging sunlight. You can feel confident that your beans will stay plump, moist and fragrant in their pouch for years in your pantry. The aluminium lining protects the beans from foreign flavours. Be sure to cut the pouch open above the seal so you can re-close the pouch between uses. Remember to give your pods a breath of fresh air very few months to keep them in optimal condition.
With a little love, you will be storing and cooking with your pouch of vanilla pods for years.