Infusion involves soaking fresh ingredients in your choice of alcohol... allowing the release of their natural flavors and aroma.
Infusing alcohol at home is a mainstay trend among the gastronomically adventurous. It's an easy way to explore the exciting world of new flavor and aroma compounds in wine, beer and spirits (cooking oils, vinegar's etc. as well).
The path to great-homemade infusion is much simpler than you might imagine. How simple? It can be as simple as a portion of Vodka and handful of seasonal fruits, herbs or spices. You can infuse your spirits with nearly anything edible.
Adding flavor and aroma isn't so much a science as it is a simple process that requires some imagination and creativity.
So how do you choose what spirit gets infused with what ingredients? Think with your taste buds...identify flavor combinations you already like, start from there and be willing to experiment.
Gently rotate bottle from top to bottom to move liquid around.
At the end of the day, your infusion is complete when it tastes good to you (taste along the way). Infusions processes vary depending on your palette and type of ingredients being infused. For example, dried fruits can handle longer aging while spices such as chili peppers, can be too intense in a hurry.
Alcohol tends to extract more of the bitter note compounds from ingredients such as coffee, tea, certain herbs and spices, so take some care and taste more frequently.
Oaking with Infusion
Oaking and Infusion can be considered at the same time but keep in mind that in doing so flavor from the infused ingredients may be locked into the Oak (which can be a good thing or not).
Most herbal and floral flavors do best in combination with other flavors. Think blackberry-rose tequila, strawberry-basil vodka or tangerine-bronze fennel gin. However, most fresh herbs peak early in the process, so if you're combining herbs and flowers with another main ingredient such as vegetable/roots, begin with the main ingredient (the one that takes longer) then add herb and or flower components after.
It is recommended that you use whole, not ground spices unless you can use a tea bag type product to hold fine powders which can then be placed into the infuser basket. If the spice is complementing another ingredient (for example dried apple and cinnamon rum), keep the spice quantities moderate, or infuse the alcohol in stages. For example, start with dried apple infusion, until your satisfied with the result, then strain and infuse the rum with a cinnamon stick.
Wash your fruit well. Skins such as apples and pears should peeled for more effective flavor and aroma transfer. Avoid the use of stems, skin, core and seeds to avoid unpleasant potential bitter tastes. Rough chop, slice and puree would also work. Leave small fruits, like cherries, whole. For citrus, the zest is an important flavor compound. Remove thick bitter pith.
Ensure that skins and shells are removed to allow more effective flavor transfer (skin adds bitterness). With golden or brown base liquors, the flavor will be enhanced if you toast the nuts until lightly browned.
Use natural, untreated dried fruit without additives, if possible. If using large dried fruit, you should chop in smaller pieces to allow more effective flavor transfer.
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