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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Fruit juices
- Vegetable juices
- Maple syrup
- Flavouring syrups
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:
Warm It Up
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.