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Infusing: An Introduction

Infusing is a technique which has been around for a long time. In fact, it can be traced back to the first time tea was made – some thousands of years ago. Since then various cuisines have utilised the infusing technique to craft everything from flavoured vinegars to the classic Italian liqueur Limoncello.

While traditional infusing methods set the groundwork, the whipped cream dispenser has cranked the process up another gear. Traditional infusing could take hours, days, or even months to complete. Infusing with a whipped cream dispenser takes a matter of minutes. Even though a dispenser can’t replace certain traditional techniques, it’s fair to say it has brought infusing to a whole new audience – and also opened the door for more experimental creations.

The process of infusing with a whipped cream dispenser can be traced back to the French Culinary Institute’s Dave Arnold. He was the one who popularised the technique, which sees the dispenser enhance the liquid of choice with flavouring agents. This is achieved with the use of N20. The pressure from the N20 penetrates the flavouring agents. When the pressure is released from the dispenser, the gas follows suit. Yet as the gas rushes out, it carries compounds of the flavouring agents. These compounds mix with the liquid and, just like that, the infusing process is complete.

The Infusing Process

The infusing process is something which anyone can complete with ease. With that said, there are a few things which can be done during the procedure which can enhance the liquid even further. Here’s a step-by-step guide for infusing with a whipped cream dispenser:

  • First of all, pick your flavouring agents. These can be any flavourful ingredients, including herbs, spices, and fruits. Once selected, give the flavouring agents a diligent clean, and then place into the bottom of the whipped cream dispenser. 
  • Before partnering the flavouring agents with your liquid of choice, it is recommended to warm up the liquid. This will help accelerate the infusion process. When the liquid is warm – room temperature is fine – pour it into the whipped cream dispenser and over the flavour agents. 
  • Ensure the dispenser is sealed. Now screw in a cream charger. A 500ml dispenser will only need one charge, while a one litre dispenser requires two charges. 
  • Give the dispenser a brief swirl. Now place the device down to allow for the infusing process to advance. The length of time for the infusing is down to personal choice. The longer it sits in an infusing state, the stronger the liquid flavour. For a general guide, allowing it to sit for one-to-three minutes works well. 
  • Vent the gas from the dispenser with the assistance of a towel. The towel covers the dispenser’s nozzle, which stops the liquid from accidentally squirting out as you release the gas. Now strain the liquid from the dispenser. Note: the longer the strained liquid is left to sit, the better the taste. Five-to-ten minutes is sufficient time for this final step. 

Infusing: The Flavouring Agents

When nearly anything can be used as a flavouring agent, there are virtually an endless number of infusions which can be made with a whipped cream dispenser. Yet even though the options and combinations are bountiful, there are still some guidelines to follow for a successful infusing experience.

The Flavouring Agents Available

As you will find out by reading the following section, there are many different flavouring agents that can assist with fashioning tasty and successful infusions.

Fruits and Vegetables

The wide range of fruit and vegetables means they work in various ways as an infusion. Chilli peppers can deliver a sharp bite to drinks or oils. Cucumber adds a subtle flavour that works with many different liquids. Strawberries and cherries, similarly, can enhance everything from alcohol drinks to vinegar dressings.

A small amount of precaution needs to be considered when using fruits and vegetables. For instance, ingredients such as carrots and citrus zests can produce an overly bitter infusion. The latter can be salvaged, however, by removing the pith from the orange, lime, or lemon.

Herbs and Spices

If you want a starting point into infusing, you can’t go wrong with herbs and spices. These are classic flavouring agents which work excellently for infusing. Basil, cinnamon, oregano, dried chillies, fresh mint, and star anise are just some of the ingredients which work for the process. They can be used to supply additional flavour to oils, or even give alcoholic drinks a different dimension.

Coffee and Tea

If there is a drink of some kind available, then coffee and tea are not far behind. A cold “roast” or “brew” is possible for coffee and tea respectively, and they make an interesting addition to alcoholic beverages.

Other Unusual Ingredients

As pretty much anything is open to being a flavouring agent, gastronomy chefs and quirky cooks across the planet have infused with many unusual ingredients. Confectionery, smoke via charred wood chips, chocolate – and strangely enough, they all work in their own way.

One of the more ‘out there’ categories is meat. That’s right, meat infusions are a thing. From chicken to bacon to even smoked salmon, cooked meats (and fish) can give your infusions a unique and distinctive twist. 

Flavouring Agent Amounts

How much of a flavouring agent do you add for an infusion? It is an important question. Sadly, there’s no clear answer. As essentially anything can be a flavouring agent, all the rules are thrown out the window. For a general guide, if you have 500 grams of liquid, this will usually be infused with between 20 and 90 grams of flavouring agents. The total is dependent on the desired infusion strength, liquid strength, and flavouring agent strength.

Desired Infusion Strength

How strong do you want your infusion to turn out? This is the first question you need to answer when determining the amount of flavouring agent to use. If you want a really bold infusion that has a distinct taste of the flavouring agent, this means a sizeable amount of the flavouring agent should be included. For a subtle taste that resides in the background of the liquid, the infusion should only feature a small amount of the flavouring agent.

Liquid Strength

The liquid base for the infusion is an important piece of the ‘How much flavouring agent do I use?’ puzzle. If, say, water is the base liquid, only a small amount of flavouring agents is necessary. Whereas something like maple syrup, a full-flavoured liquid, will require additional flavouring agents. If not, the flavour you’re attempting to add will be too subtle to even taste.

Flavouring Agent Strength

The potency of the flavouring agent is another factor to take into consideration. A bell pepper, which is rather subtle in taste, will need to feature more prominently as a flavouring agent than a chilli pepper for example.

 

Infusing: The Liquids

When the flavouring agent is selected, it is time to focus on the base liquid for the infusing. And like the flavouring agents, you are open to select just about any form of liquid for the process.

Water

We’re going to start out with the most boring option on the menu: water. However, don’t be too hasty in disregarding it for another liquid. It’s the perfect solution for anyone who simply wants to extract pure flavour from their flavouring agent of choice. Understandably, any flavouring agent can be used with water. The resulting infusion could even be given a second go-around in the whipped cream dispenser and turned into a foam.

Alcohols

As far as infusing is concerned, alcohols are arguably the most popular liquid to use. The range of infusions starts from giving vodka a little subtle background flavour, to transforming rum into a spiced and bold beverage that’s sure to put hair on your chest. When taking into account that normal alcohol-based infusions can take weeks to complete, it is even easier to understand why instant alcohol infusions with a whipped cream dispenser are in favour. 

Oils

Enhance standard oils with your favourite flavours. Ingredients such as thyme, chili pepper, and rosemary are excellent additions to oil, and the oil is then a great topping on everything from pasta to fresh bread.

Note: when infusing with oil, always give the flavouring agent a rigorous clean beforehand. Bacteria are removed during the infusing process, which means botulism is a potential risk if proper care isn’t taken.

Vinegars

It’s true: there are plenty of flavoured vinegars available for sale. But when you consider how expensive these usually are, doesn’t it make sense to go about simply making your own custom vinegars? It’s a much more inexpensive alternative, and you’re not dictated by the options on the market – you can be as creative as you want with the vinegar’s flavouring agents. Herb vinegars work really well, as do those which incorporate fruit flavours.

Other Liquids

We could go on all day listing liquids for infusing. In an effort to stop this section from challenging War and Peace’s word count, the following is a quick list of the more popular alternative liquid choices:

 

Have Fun!

Whatever flavour combinations you decide to try out with your new-found knowledge of infusing with cream chargers, don't forget to experiment and have fun with it! A great tip is to stock up on different flavouring agents and split your liquid up into portions to create multiple flavours from one bottle; You never know what new taste sensations you may stumble upon! And whatever delicious liquids you concoct could also be given away as Christmas or birthday presents, the perfect homemade and personal gift!

Infusing: Tips and Tricks:

In order to get the best out of your infusions, below are a few quick pointers to further assist in your journey of developing infusions with a whipped cream dispenser. You'll also find helpful tips at the very end of this guide on how to turn your delicious creations into beautiful homemade gifts for your friends and loved ones that are suitable for any occasion!

Warm It Up

Warm liquids are always best when devising infusions. They work quicker and, in comparison to cold liquids, they generate stronger infusions.  
There are a couple of things to keep in mind with this point. Firstly, the liquid only needs to be around room temperature – there is no requirement for it to be boiling hot. Secondly, don’t worry about having to consume a lukewarm drink. Once the infusion is done, the liquid can be left to chill and get back down to a colder temperature.

Don’t Go Above the Capacity Limit

Even though they don’t expand in size like foam, this doesn’t mean infusions are an open opportunity to test the capacity limits of the whipped cream dispenser. If you overfill the dispenser, it will prove difficult when trying to carry out the venting process. In fact, it will be a struggle not to get sprayed as the infusion escapes from the nozzle!

Increase Clarity by Straining

Want to increase the clarity of your infusions? Well this can be achieved with little fuss by utilising a strainer. If large ingredients are used for the infusion, a standard strainer will do the job. However, if you have small ingredients which are susceptible to breaking into particles, a fine strainer – such as chinois – is recommended.

Avoid Going Cheap

This is a general rule to follow for any kind of cooking. If the cheapest ingredients are used, this will have a negative effect on the overall quality of your infusions. Admittedly you don’t have to always go with luxurious or high-grade ingredients. But it is best to go with items not found residing on bargain shelves, as they will generally offer superior flavour.

Leave to Rest

Once the infusion has been strained, it is recommended to leave the liquid to rest for a few minutes. By letting it stand for between five to ten minutes, the infusion is allowed to settle and give the flavours a chance to fully develop. This is beneficial for many infusions, although it is especially effective if they contain water or alcohol.

A Homemade Gift

Due to lasting for several weeks – and in some cases, even months – infusions can be made, bottled up and presented as gifts whenever needed. They’re simple to produce in large quantities, meaning they can cover multiple people over certain annual holidays like Christmas and Easter. Infusions can also be customised and tailor-made for people with ease. Plus homemade gifts are always the best – the sentiment is treasured by the recipient, and the minimal cost is particularly appreciated by your wallet.
You can buy miniature bottles in most high-street shops, supermarkets and online stores for your infused creations, and to add a touch of sophistication to the presentation why not tie ribbons or string around the necks of each bottle along with a tag or even make your own labels to stick on them! By doing this you can create perfect and beautiful gifts for your loved ones that appear more expensive than they actually are!