Having trouble choosing your vanilla pods? We will help you see it more clearly.
There are 3 main types of orchids that produce vanilla.
- vanilla Planifolia (also called vanilla fragans),
- vanilla Tahitensis
- vanilla Pompona
(also called Bourbon vanilla)
Do you know ? All the vanillas that are produced in the Indian Ocean have the Bourbon appellation.
Gourmet quality Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla is the best quality vanilla.
Why is it called Vanille Gourmet? Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, the grand cru of vanilla, is a vanilla with a moisture content of over 30% and up to 38%.
Vanilla Planifolia is the original vanilla plant from Mexico but today it is cultivated in Madagascar, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Uganda.
This is the most common type of vanilla produced in the world, and although the taste and smell of these vanilla pods vary slightly depending on the country of origin, you will recognize the spicy aroma and incomparably vanilla flavor. .
The rich, slightly spicy flavor of Mexican vanilla pairs particularly well with chocolate to bring out the fullness of chocolate and vanilla.
Madagascar Vanilla or Bourbon is just as strong, but it tends to be creamier and higher in the vanillin component, which gives vanilla its trademark taste. ("Bourbon" refers to the vanilla producing islands near Madagascar, not the whiskey.)
The Vanilla Planifolia from Papua New Guinea is creamy with a hint of caramel, while the one from Uganda is somewhere between Mexican vanilla and Madagascar: it has a strong vanillin component with chocolate undertones.
Vanilla planifolia pods should be picked green and will ripen scalded.
Advantage: its naturally high level of vanillin, and its universal use, from appetizer to dessert.
Tahitian vanilla is the black gold of French Polynesia.
Tahitian vanilla pods will come from Tahaa Island "Vanilla Island", Raiatea, Huahiné, Bora Bora and the Vanilla Islands.
The Tahitian vanilla bean vanilla tahitensis is the most expensive vanilla bean in the world. Why ? Because there is more demand than supply and above all, the know-how of Tahitian producers.
Each vanilla pod is massaged to mix its aromatic components.
When this variety of vanilla is produced in Papua New Guinea it will be called Vanilla Tahitensis.
It is distinguished by the size of the pods which are broad, fleshy, thick, the coat wrinkled and the dark brown color more or less matte. The level of vanillin is lower than Vanilla Planifolia. We will talk more about aniseed compounds which give it this important olfactory power. It is also very rich in fatty acids.
Its particular aroma is conferred on it by heliotropin (absent from Planifolia "). Its moisture content is greater than" Bourbon "vanillas. It is very rightly considered" vanilla ", that of the great chefs, texture and aroma makes it incomparable and atypical They consider it THE exceptional vanilla, it sublimates the desserts of the greatest tables in France and around the world.
Production on the rise in recent years in Tahiti.
It is vanilla of choice when it comes to making perfumes, due to its high level of heliotropin, the chemical compound responsible for the floral scent. This is the favorite species of vanilla among pastry chefs because its relatively subtle flavor lends itself naturally to sweet baking.
Tahitensis vanilla pods are picked when they turn yellow to brown in color and they will then be exposed to the sun in sections of 2 hours per day and then massaged by hand to distribute the components inside the pods.
The great peculiarity of this species is that when ripe, the fruit does not open to release the seeds ready to germinate (unlike V.planifolia). We speak of indehiscent fruit. This can then be picked later. This characteristic gives it the possibility of accumulating aroma precursors, which will subsequently be developed during the various stages of preparation. The final product will then have aromas that are a little more fruity and intense than those of bourbon vanilla. This is the reason why it is now arousing real enthusiasm among producers, who want to make it a "high-end" vanilla.
Advantage: its richness in seeds, its original scent blending perfectly with the sweet.
- Vanille Pomponna (Mexican vanilla)
Also called "banana vanilla" for its shape, La Vanille Pomponna is cultivated in the Caribbean, Mexico and South America (mainly Peru).
This vanilla bean has a floral flavor with a slight hint of acidity.
This vanilla stands out from the rest because it is short and big.
This vanilla is of lower quality than its cousins because its vanillin level is low.
Do you know ?
The key difference between vanilla planifolia and the tahitensis and pomponna varieties is that vanilla planifolia must be “steamed” after being harvested so that the pods do not continue to grow.
What does “steam” mean? This involves soaking the pods in hot water for a few minutes; temperature and time vary among refiners and thus produce different results. For tahitensis vanilla, the principle is to put the vanilla directly in the sun every day which will give the vanilla much longer refining, hence a higher price for the sale of the tahitensis variety and in particular on the pods from Polynesia where labor is expensive.
You might find even more variation in the market, but the distinctions outlined above pretty much sums up all the differences you will find when buying vanilla beans.
It is important to know what you want to use your vanilla for, in order to bring out its unique strengths.
The criteria for good vanilla:
- its smell: even if the spice can take on very different flavors, the pod must immediately give off a clear scent of vanilla,
- its flexibility: a good pod, of good quality, will be flexible and not rigid,
- its appearance: a good, good quality pod will be shiny without being shiny, oily (without excess), of uniform color, and will not present any major defect (spots, scars, etc.),
- its color: in general, the darker the pod, the better it will be,
- its size: the bigger and thicker a pod, the better it will be. The size and thickness depend on the origin of the spice, but within the same family this rule still applies. This is because the longer and wider it is, the more seeds it will contain, the part that is used the most and that contains the most vanillin.
CLASSIFICATION OF VANILLA BEANS
Category A or Category B?
It all depends on how you use your vanilla pods.
The different qualities of vanilla pods are optimal for different uses.
What exactly is the difference between Grade A Vanilla Beans and Grade B Vanilla Beans, and why aren't all of them suitable for every recipe?
There are two key differences between the different categories of vanilla beans:
Grade A pods are often referred to as "gourmet" vanilla pods.
They have a much higher moisture content than grade B, or "extraction grade" vanilla beans.
As the name suggests, extraction grade (grade B) vanilla beans are often used to make vanilla extract. The reason for this is due to a much lower moisture content, which helps in a very concentrated vanilla flavor. So you will get a lot more of that sweet and earthy flavor of Category B vanilla pods, but that is only if it is soaked in some sort of liquid for the long haul (for the preparation of your arranged rums for example). .
The best chefs usually prefer a Grade A vanilla bean in their baking because the higher moisture content allows the vanilla flavor to seep into the dish quickly. In other words, gourmet vanilla beans diffuse their flavor more easily than extract grade beans. So if you are making a salty cream sauce, like this vanilla saffron sauce, or a pastry, Grade A pods are going to be your best bet for quickly infusing flavor into your meals.
Grade A pods are excellent pods for cooking because the seeds can be scraped off and added directly to food.
But, how can you tell the difference between the two categories of vanilla pods just by looking at them?
In other words, Grade A pods are the more attractive of the two, at least in that they are free from blemishes. They are dark brown and chocolatey in color and are mostly uniform in size (longer than the extract grade) and noticeably oily. They are also plump due to the humidity level, which is usually around 30% or more. Due to the high level of humidity, they tend to be more flexible.
Grade B pods, on the other hand, are lean and dry to the touch and generally appear to be a reddish-brown tone and likely won't have an oily appearance on the pod. Their humidity is usually around 20%. Because they're so dry and more likely to split or crack if you try to bend them. Pods with imperfections are almost always considered Grade B, whether they are split, cracked, or sunburned.
The nicknames for different categories of vanilla beans can be misleading. Grade A or Gourmet may sound more appealing, but it's not necessarily the best choice.
Ask yourself the question "For what use?" "
Now that you know the 2 categories of vanilla pods, it's up to you to make good use of them and taste your preparations with this iconic spice of world gastronomy.
Grade = Quality?
Does this mean Grade A vanilla is better than Grade B? No. Again, the grading system depends on variations in moisture content and appearance rather than quality.
In fact, some might argue that Grade B vanilla is better because you get more pods for your money since you aren't paying for the extra weight in water you get with Grade A pods. And because Class B vanilla pods are less aesthetically appealing and require a bit more time to bring out their potential, they are less expensive than Class A vanilla pods.