Infusion refers to flavour that is extracted by steeping an ingredient into a hot or acidic liquid such as water, oil, milk, or vinegar, for a period of time. Ingredients used for infusions must be solid and fragrant or aromatic, for example, dried leaves, herbs, or fruits. Popular infusions that we make on a daily basis include tea and coffee.
Infusion in cooking
In the culinary world, an infusion could refer to any procedure that extracts flavour from an ingredient. Infusion in cooking adds extra flavour to meats, vegetables, rice, poultry, and other grains. Using brine, marinade, or broth to add flavour to ingredients – as in soups – is also a method of infusing. Flavoured oils are also a method of infusion that is used in cooking. Adding garlic, chilli, truffle, or other herbs and spices to oil is a method of extracting their flavour and infusing it into the oil. This oil can then be used to add an extra taste sensation in recipes.
What liquid can you use for an infusion?
Virtually any liquid can be used to make an infusion, though not all will turn out fantastic with every ingredient. The most popular liquids used in infusions include water, oil, vinegar, wine, alcohol, and syrup. Each of these liquids pairs differently with different ingredients to create distinct end results.
How to make an infusion
Making an infusion is very simple. First you must prepare your infusion liquid, be it water, oil, milk, alcohol, or vinegar. Second, you must have on hand an ingredient that can either dissolve into the liquid or release its active ingredients easily. The most common ingredients used for an infusion are berries, dried herbs, or flowers.
The first process in making an infusion is to boil or heat the chosen liquid – unless you have chosen to make a cold infusion. Generally, the warmer the liquid, the faster the infusion happens. The second step is to pour the liquid over your chosen ingredient, leaving it to steep for a period of time. The steeping time depends on how long it takes for the ingredient to release its flavour into the liquid. Some ingredients take mere seconds to extract while others take hours, days, or months. Finally, the liquid is strained to separate the ingredient, leaving behind the ‘infusion’. Infusions may be bottled or refrigerated for later use.
What is a whipping siphon?
A whipping siphon is a metal container that is used to pressurise liquids with nitrous oxide. It can be used for many different cooking techniques, including making foams, froths, and sodas, however it can also be used to quickly create liquid infusions. It is the fastest method of making an infusion, taking mere minutes to extract flavour from an ingredient. Using a whipping siphon to make an infusion is sometimes referred to as a ‘Rapid Nitrous Infusion’. High pressure is used to force the liquid into the solid ingredient and quickly extract the flavour. When the pressure is released, the liquid is then removed, pulling out the flavour.
Ideas for making an infusion
Some popular combinations for an infusion include the following:
- Oil infusions – Infuse oil with flavours from basil, garlic, rosemary, chilli, black pepper, ginger, lemon, tarragon, or thyme.
- Vinegar infusions – Vinegar is less hospitable to infusions, but pairs well with basil, ginger, rosemary, tarragon, and berries.
- Syrup infusions – Delicious syrup infusions include ginger, vanilla, rosemary, or mint.