The Story of Smoked Vanilla

Some years ago, I was living in the wonderful city of Astoria Oregon. My tiny Vanilla company was building along, and on most Sundays I’d be at the Astoria Sunday Market sharing my passion for vanilla with everyone I could.

I awoke in the wee hours one morning and I knew what I needed to do. I needed to smoke vanilla beans! When I arose to greet the day I reminded myself of my nighttime epiphany. After coffee I began some searches online to see about smoking vanilla beans.

I’d never smoked anything before, but I appreciated how it was revered by it’s practioners. The men and women in the community who smoked the fish caught by local fisherman, for example spoke of their pursuit with dedication and passion. Just like the fisherpeople of the community, and really, anyone who does anything with purpose and skill built from love. While always interesting, it never had occured to me to try my hand at smoking anything, let alone my vanilla beans.

Lo and behold, I turned up NOTHING on my searches. Not a mention of smoked vanilla anywhere! I was in unchartered territory! I made notes about stuff I could find, info on smoked peaches seemed helpful, another article on wood varieties and best uses. I read about cheses and any odd type of food that might get smoked. I went over to the website of the BBQ guy I remembered watching on PBS occasionally and read some articles there. I took notes. An hour easily went by. Opps.

The next afternoon my then husband and I visited the moving sale of an acquaintance who was leaving town and selling off stuff. We always enjoyed such sales and it gave us a chance to wish the woman good luck on her next adventure. As we chatted with her on her future plans and looked around, I spied something exciting.

“How much for the smoker” I asked, it was one of those Lil’ Chiefs, it was old and tattered but still in perfect working order.

“Five dollars” she said with a shrug. I eagerly handed it over and claimed my gift from the universe!

As with most new ideas, there is the idea, and then there is making it work. Smoking was definitely an art and a skill, and I was green. I bought a handful of wood type chips and set about to smoke me some vanilla beans. I thought it might take a few weeks to get it right. Ha. Joke was on me. Two years and many destroyed vanilla beans later I had finally mastered it! I took my creation and began running experiments to see what I could do with it and how the flavor could translate in various dishes, or if it would make some things gross?

It was such a new dimension in flavor. The way the vanilla bean flavor changed. My husband compared it to the difference between a raw garlic close and a roasted one. And while that may not be the most desirous comparison, as the UN-smoked vanilla bean in no way holds the bite of a raw clove of garlic, it is apt in the the difference between the two are remarkable.

I found it incredible that the smoked bean, far from tasting like smoke, smelled more like fine pipe tobacco and added a depth and a sophistication I never expected to certain dishes, such as Creme Brulee. (I made a lot of creme brulee initially to test the smoking of the vanilla beans in order to get the flavor just right, but then my skirts started to get tight, ha. I switched to Hot Vanilla.)

Once perfected it was time to turn pro on the smoking apparatus. In my research I learned there were only a few brands used by the pros. I headed over to Englund Marine and got a shiny new Bradley Smoker! The very same one I proudly use today, and I can tell you true, the only thing that has ever been in my smoker is Vanilla Beans.

All my smoked beans are cold smoked, so they do not cook in any way. I have perfected the blend of wood I use as well as the time required. Today, I offer these beans by the Vanilla Bean, as ground Smoked Vanilla Powder, and Extracted. I’ve used it in everything from lemonade to pork chops and it has not failed me once! I am always looking for ways it doesn’t work, but much like vanilla itself, it’s wonderful with nearly everything!

Want to try my Smoked Vanilla? Check out my shop here at XXXVanilla.com and Worldsgreatestvanilla.com.

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