Have you recently purchased a bunch of plump, moist, and delicious vanilla beans? Are you slightly panicking because you have no idea how to store them? Let’s face it, they’re expensive! And you want to make sure you care for them properly.
We’re going to take you through some common dos and don’ts on how to store your vanilla bean pods – because, unfortunately, vanilla beans are delicate and can easily be ruined if not stored the right way.
What Should Vanilla Bean Pods Look Like?
The two most common types of vanilla bean pods sold for commercial use are Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans and Tahitian Vanilla beans. Not only do they look slightly different but they are also sold in different grades that also have a different look.
Both types of beans have an oily sheen and dark brown skin. However, Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans tend to be longer, growing as long as eight inches, and are quite thin and full of seeds. Tahitian Vanilla Beans are shorter and broader than the Madagascar Bourbon but also more delicate.
Regardless of Madagascar Bourbon or Tahitian, Grade A vanilla beans are noticeably plumper, more pliable, and rich, dark brown in color, sometimes exhibiting a reddish hue.
Grade B beans are not as high quality as Grade A beans and are dry to the touch. They are reddish-brown in color and easily breakable.
How to Store Your Vanilla Bean Pods
When it comes to storing your vanilla bean pods, there are a few basic rules to follow. If you purchased your vanilla beans online, it is usually advisable to keep your beans in the packaging they arrived in. In the case of ordering from Spice Bay Foods, your beans arrive securely packaged in an airtight glass bottle. If your beans come in heavy plastic packaging, keep them in this packaging until they’re ready for use and place them in a glass jar with an airtight lid after you open the package.
Once you have the right packaging, store the beans in a cool, dry location. A pantry is often ideal for this but anywhere that’s away from changing temperature conditions is also suitable. Ideally, the temperature where you store your beans is anywhere from 60-85 °F.
How Not to Store Your Vanilla Bean Pods
You may think it’s a good idea to store your vanilla bean pods in the fridge or preserve them in the freezer until they’re ready for use but this will actually ruin them. While some have tried this method and not had catastrophic results, the odds are highly stacked against you. The beans are likely to experience mold growth if kept in the fridge and typically become hard and dry out if kept in the freezer.
Keep in mind, if you’re storing vanilla beans properly, they can develop small crystals that look white and powdery and can be confused for mold. To determine this, take your vanilla beans out in the sunshine (briefly!). If the crystals glisten in the light, you have natural vanillin crystals. This is clearly not a sign of mold and actually means that your beans are of exceptionally high quality. These crystals are not bad for you in any way and are completely edible. If the beans do smell bad and the substance does not glitter in the sun, it is mold.
While mold does not necessarily mean that your beans are unsalvageable, you do need to take caution when cleaning them. Separate the moldy beans from the healthy ones and wipe them carefully with a clean cloth or paper towel. Then, wipe them carefully with a damp towel. Once the beans have completely dried, store them separately from the unaffected beans. If the mold reappears, the beans are unusable and should be thrown out.
Why Do I See Brown Streaks on the Packaging?
If you see brown streaks on the packaging your beans have been kept in, this is the oils coming from both on and inside the vanilla beans. While a certain amount of brown streaking is normal, it’s important to make sure that the beans are not sweating. This may mean that the room you are storing them in is too hot or humid and the beans will begin to go bad. Your beans can also dry out if they’re in an environment that is too dry.
What if My Vanilla Bean Pods Dry Out?
While it can be difficult to rehabilitate vanilla beans that have gone bad, you can likely rehydrate beans that have dried out. It is possible to rehydrate your beans in a warm liquid such as cream or milk if you’re looking to add flavor to a creamy dessert such as ice cream or custard. Dry beans can also be great for making vanilla extract as their lower moisture content is ideal for flavor extraction. Extremely dry beans can also be ground up into coffee beans to add a wonderful hint of vanilla or made into a spice with a spice grinder. If you choose to try one of these methods, cut off the tips of the beans before putting them into a grinder.
Vanilla bean pods are an excellent addition to virtually any recipe that requires vanilla flavoring or extract. They can be used as a vanilla extract on their own or made into an extract that can be kept in your pantry for years to come. Making sure that you store your fresh vanilla bean pods properly in the first place is crucial for their success. Follow our instructions after you receive your fresh, vanilla bean pods and make sure that they last until you’re ready to use them. After all, vanilla bean pods are precious, and take up to three years to be ready to use – you really don’t want to waste them!