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Infusions, Extractions & Tinctures at Home: The Topic (Part 1)

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I've used the technique in this article with great success. Vacuum works well with fruit & veg, while the nitrous whipper is best for dry ingredients like herbs & teas. I've combined the two techniques as well.

 

Tito's vodka infused with serrano peppers, sweet peppers, and cucumber makes a fantastic base for Bloody Marys.


Edited by Smokalicious (log)

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I can't get more than a few minutes of green herbs (not stuff like rosemary or thyme, but mint, parsley, etc) without it getting NASTY, and that's in 95% grain alcohol. With vodka it's even worse.

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I can't get more than a few minutes of green herbs (not stuff like rosemary or thyme, but mint, parsley, etc) without it getting NASTY, and that's in 95% grain alcohol. With vodka it's even worse.

If you are referring to nitrous infusions, then I would make 3 points:

 

1. I don't use fresh herbs, only dried, when using this method.

2. 5 minutes is the longest I've pressurized any infusion.

3. I wouldn't think of doing this with grain alcohol.

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I'm not using nitrous for herbs, just the regular old-fashioned way

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Strawberry season here, so two jars of tequila por mi amante have been started using a portion of the proceeds from this morning's picking.

Now the challenge is holding out until August.

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I've been sitting on this post - not literally - for quite some time; life kept getting in the way.  But finally, I can tell you all about my experiments with a liqueur made from the seeds of the bay tree.

 

In my part of the world, the bay trees (Lauris nobilis, not the Californian bay) drop large numbers of seeds around March/April every year.  'Fresh' ones look like this:

 

Laurier1a.jpg

 

and if left to their own devices for a few days, lose their skins and end up like this:

 

Laurier1b.jpg

 

Last year I started this topic asking if anyone had heard of culinary uses for the seeds and received a few good replies.  At around the same time I started distilling my own alcohol and was looking for interesting things to make with the output.  On my favourite distillers' site I found this page where, if you scroll down a little, you'll find a very basic recipe for Liqueur de Laurier - bay liqueur made with the seeds.  Trouble is, the recipe consists of nothing more than a list of ingredients, with no instructions about what state the seeds should be in - with skins or without, whole or bashed or grated - or how long to soak them in the alcohol. Experimentation was called for.

 

I started with the specified litre of 50% spirit, 100 grams of seeds (I went with the ones without skins), a whole nutmeg (the recipe specifies 4 grams but doesn't say anything about grating) and a clove.  The seeds released a certain quantity of air bubbles:

 

Laurier2.jpg

 

That settled down after a while and I sealed the jar and put it away in the pantry.  Now the hard part - how long to leave it?

 

Over the next few weeks the mixture started developing a subtle gold/brown colour, but stayed clear rather than cloudy.  This seemed to me to be a good thing.  It also began to small, albeit faintly, of bay (the seeds themselves do have the smell, but nowhere near as strongly as the leaves).

 

After six weeks I decided to pull it out, sweeten and dilute it and bottle it.  And here it is:

 

Laurier3.jpg

 

I'm pleased to report complete success.  The final product is around 25% alcohol, lower than some of the things I've made which, although good, are distinctly 'grown up'.  It's very pleasant to drink on its own as a digestif ( a bit of ice is good with it) and, slightly to my surprise, I've found it substitutes very well in cocktails requiring yellow Chartreuse - like this one, which I highly recommend.

 

I'll certainly be making this again.  Given how well it turned out I'm reluctant to change anything, but I'm also slightly tempted to see what breaking up the seeds and/or grating the nutmeg would do.  We'll see ...

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I've grown some big cucumbers and want to investigate the world of infusions. 

I think gin sounds better than vodka, but what kind?

  1. a workhorse gin (I like Brokers), because it seems like a neutral choice? (or is there more to consider?)
  2. a cheap gin, because the subtleties of pricier gins will be lost in the process anyway? (or is cheap gin going to taste bad whatever you add?)
  3. Hendricks, because it already leans in the cucumber direction? (or is that redundant?)
  4. some other kind of gin that's not on my radar? Plymouth? Old tom?!

What do you think?

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I would not use a typical London dry, such as Broker's (as much as I love it), because the botanicals will probably stomp all over the cucumber. Maybe one of the many more floral gins that are discussed throughout the spirits forum? Personally I'm in love with the Dorothy Parker gin.

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Let us know how it turns out. I've usually just tossed fresh cucumber in the blender, strained (or you can use an electric juicer), and added that to cocktails. I'm not sure how well that fresh cucumber flavor would keep in an infusion.

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Picked up some Greenall's gin, as it seemed from cursory research like it would be mild enough to not overwhelm the cucumber (and inexpensive). 

 

Perhaps I should have done more extensive research, as when I got home and tasted the Greenall's I realized it's beyond mild--it has almost no "ginniness" at all, just a little alcohol burn. I think you could have convinced me it was a midpriced vodka. 

 

But I pressed on. Peeled, seeded, and chopped the cuke and soaked it for two days, strained it through doubled cheesecloth.

 
The infused gin took on some of that fresh and cool cucumber aroma and flavor. I thought it might have been stronger, given that I had found a couple of slices of the same cuke dropped in a cold glass of water was enough to give the water a nice cucumber cast instantly. Color is, I guess partly cloudy.
 
Made a gin and tonic with the infused gin, half a lime, and some Q tonic this evening. It was nice, again had some of that freshness, though the tonic flavor dominated. 
 
Still have a pint of the stuff so I'll have to come up with some additional cocktails to try with it. Some St. Germain concoctions sound promising to me.
 
Upshot: The process worked, but I would be more excited about the product if I had found a more interesting mild gin to use (alas, the suggested Dorothy Parker was not available at my liquor store). I love drinks with muddled cucumber, and (similar to Kent's thinking) am not sure how this infusion presents any advantages over muddling. I suppose if it is shelf-stable long past growing season, that could be a plus, but I have no idea how well it keeps. 

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Update: My cucumber-gin enthusiasm has been rekindled by the use of it in an Easy Street Fizz (cocktail by Anthony Schmidt, Noble Experiment, San Diego): 

Easy Street Fizz
1 1/2 oz Hendricks Gin
1 oz St Germain 
3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 thin slice cucumber
1 egg white (large egg)
Prep: add all ingredients to a shaker can. before adding ice, shake vigorously to emulsify the egg white. Add ice and shake like you're crazy. Pour into a medium water glass, and top with a bit of club soda.

Very nice!

 

 


Edited by Craig E (log)

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Update: My cucumber-gin enthusiasm has been rekindled by the use of it in an Easy Street Fizz (cocktail by Anthony Schmidt, Noble Experiment, San Diego): 

Very nice!

 

Cool. I think it's one of the first drinks that Anthony made for me. It also works without the egg white.

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I've used the technique in this article with great success. Vacuum works well with fruit & veg, while the nitrous whipper is best for dry ingredients like herbs & teas. I've combined the two techniques as well.

 

Tito's vodka infused with serrano peppers, sweet peppers, and cucumber makes a fantastic base for Bloody Marys.

I have also used a warm water bath (aka sous vide) to speed up the infusion process, but vacuum is not necessary. I put a tablespoon or so of black cardamom seeds in a pint mason jar, fill it 3/4 with vodka, screw cap on, place in shallow water bath at 70C or so (158F) for a few hours, then strain. Gold colour, with a very strong gin-like flavour. Goes cloudy when it cools. Makes an astounding gin&tonic. Haven't tried a martini. Too cheap to buy vermouth.

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I have also used a warm water bath (aka sous vide) to speed up the infusion process, but vacuum is not necessary. I put a tablespoon or so of black cardamom seeds in a pint mason jar, fill it 3/4 with vodka, screw cap on, place in shallow water bath at 70C or so (158F) for a few hours, then strain. Gold colour, with a very strong gin-like flavour. Goes cloudy when it cools. Makes an astounding gin&tonic. Haven't tried a martini. Too cheap to buy vermouth.

    I suspect you may be correct that vacuum is unnecessary. Next time I make a batch, I'll split it in half & make one in a zip lock bag, the other vacuumed & sealed as usual in the chamber sealer. For me, unless the non-vacuumed sample is clearly better, I'll continue to vacuum seal if only because the vacuum bags are a fraction of the cost of zip lock bags.

 

    I've also found that backing off a few degrees to 154F avoids the somewhat cooked taste that 158F seems to cause with certain veggies.

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The vacuum sealed version is clearly superior in flavor & color to the zip-lock version. The trade-off seems to be that the produce absorbs more alcohol during the process, releasing juice in its stead. So, ABV suffers, while flavor is enhanced. Depending on the produce, munching on those boozy tidbits can be quite enjoyable. Edible margaritas anyone?

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So, as promised...

albeit I'm a couple of days late, apologies. Should you wish to easily remove any/all sediment and you don't have access to (expensive) filtering equipment you will want to make up a clarifying powder consisting of;

2 parts egg white powder

2 parts milk sugar (lactose)

1 part potato starch

Add 1/4 ounce of this powder to every litre of liquid that you wish to clarify and shake vigorously. Put the liquid into a warm room for a day or two, agitating regularly. Within minutes you will see the louche dropping out of suspension and settling at the bottom of your macerating container. After around 24-48 hours (longer may be required) filter through coffee filter paper.

As I understand it...

With that in mind the powder above calls for both negative and positive clarifying agents;

Egg white (positive)

Milk sugar (negative)

Potato starch (negative)

which will ensure that all sediment can easily be filtered. As mentioned by jmfangio, Bentonite (negative) can also work but it won't work in every case unless mixed with something that has a positive charge.

I'm no scientist so the explanations above may not be accurate but I can assure you the powder works and is great for clarifying small batches of liqueurs/bitters/tinctures/etc that have developed a louche/haze.

 

So with this method, and also mixing in gelatin, as I've seen elsewhere, how does one remove the resultant clear liquid? With some kind of pump?

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A siphon is the first answer that comes to mind.  Just a simple length of plastic tubing, maybe half a centimetre in (outside) diameter.  Place one end above the sediment level in your original vessel, suck the other end until the liquid moves up the tube and drop the other (sucked) end into another vessel.  There are more elegant ways, even technology, but that's essentially it.

 

Depending on the quantities you're dealing with, you might be able to use something like a turkey baster to get the clear layer off a bit at a time, or simply tip it off very carefully, being sure to stop when the sediment starts to come up.

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Thanks Leslie.

 

Another question.

 

For a tincture (so, like bitters, without the bitter element), is it better to use something like Everclear, and water it down by roughly half, or to use the base spirit of the cocktail you intend to use the tincture in?

 

Let's see I have a cocktail with gin and I want to use lemon tincture as a spritz. Would I be better off infusing lemon zest in the same gin (or vodka, for that matter), or in everclear, and then watering it down?

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Thanks Leslie.

 

Another question.

 

For a tincture (so, like bitters, without the bitter element), is it better to use something like Everclear, and water it down by roughly half, or to use the base spirit of the cocktail you intend to use the tincture in?

 

Let's see I have a cocktail with gin and I want to use lemon tincture as a spritz. Would I be better off infusing lemon zest in the same gin (or vodka, for that matter), or in everclear, and then watering it down?

Doing it with vodka or everclear would allow you to use the tincture in many other applications rather than limiting you to a specific cocktail.

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Doing it with vodka or everclear would allow you to use the tincture in many other applications rather than limiting you to a specific cocktail.

 

Sure, of course, but right now I'm concerned about one cocktail in a high-volume setting, so i don't mind if it's limited (and I'd only be doing a few ounces anyway, in an iSi). The question is more, is it better to infuse in ultra-high proof and then dilute (which is what I've done previously), or just use a product with the final proof?


Edited by Hassouni (log)

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I like to infuse at ABV of about 60% - that would probably mean using the everclear as it would be harder to find gin at that high a proof.  

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What Kerry said. Although in your high-volume setting an experiment seems called for. Can you do a small batch of 'infused final product' and see what it's like?

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What Kerry said. Although in your high-volume setting an experiment seems called for. Can you do a small batch of 'infused final product' and see what it's like?

 

That's what I was planning on anyway, no more than 3-4 oz.

 

The bigger experiment is whether it works as a decent substitute for a fresh twist...


Edited by Hassouni (log)

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Wonder of just diluting good quality lemon oil in ETOH would give a similar result?

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Well, it's not actually lemon I'm using, but a different and unusual citrus

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