Bourbon Vanilla is a generic term for Vanilla planifolia, and is the most commonly used variety in vanilla extract.Vanilla planifolia stock originated in Mexico, vanilla’s birthplace, but cuttings were taken to other tropical countries in the 1700s. In the 1800s, the French developed large plantations on Reunion, known at the time as the Ile de Bourbon, hence the name Bourbon.
Bourbon vanilla beans are long and slender, with a rich flavor and aroma. They have thick, oily skin, strong vanilla notes and contain an abundance of tiny seeds. Bourbon beans from Madagascar are creamy, hay-like and sweet, with rich vanillin overtones.
Add half a Madagascar bean as you make Beef Bourguignon or even humble beef stew. Wonderful roasted along with pork tenderloin and fruit. Terrific as the flavor for homemade ice cream. Feeling extravagant? Use the beans as swizzle sticks in bar drinks at a party. They can be washed, dried and used again — that is, assuming your guests don’t take them home as souvenirs. Excellent for making your own vanilla extract, as well.
Vanilla beans will keep indefinitely in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. Keep the beans in the heavy plastic packaging they’re shipped in. You can then put the beans and packaging in a glass or plastic container with a good, tight seal. (A large mason jar works well.) If you live in an area that is both hot and humid, the beans can be stored in a glass jar without the plastic packaging. Beans are most comfortable when the temperature ranges from 60 degrees F (15.5 C) to 85 degrees F (29 C). Do not refrigerate or freeze vanilla beans, as this can cause them to dry out and harden.
Hesitant to buy in bulk? Read this: 5 good reasons buying in bulk makes sense.