Infusion exposion (anytime)

December 12, 2007

A couple of years ago, infused vodka was just coming onto the scene and foodie publications were abuzz with new combinations and techniques. Rather than burning itself out, the trend spread to other liquors and now, apparently, it has found combustible materials outside the liquor cabinet. In the past few weeks I’ve seen article after article on making your own infusions of everything from sugar to vinegar to salt to honey, and in the early days of fall, staring at all the fresh herbs in the garden and wondering what to do with them, I printed out a couple such articles and started experimenting.

M. was hugely excited about some of them — particularly the liquids, like the lavender honey, which we heated gently three times a day for several days, and the chives, basil and tarragon in white vinegar, which sat side by side on the counter for weeks in their three glass quart jars. And when it was time to strain and bottle them for gift-giving, he was extremely impressed that each vinegar had taken on its own color and odor.

The solids seemed less impressive to him, although I have to say I’ll probably use them more in the long run. One I’m really hankering to try is rose-scented sugar (just last night I picked up a recipe for it in a flier for the zen-food movie How to Cook Your Life). I don’t grow roses — and anyway not much is growing outside in this weather! — but you can buy pesticide-free ones at various high-end grocers around town.
The only difficulty we ran into was finding suitable jars for giving away our bounty. I wound up ordering some online, but I’m still not particularly happy with them. I’ll be keeping an eye out, though, because now we’re all kind of caught up in this science-experiment-esque project! I’ll be branching out soon into hot pepper honey and tomato-flavored salt. Of course, it’s also possible to do a multitude of other infusions — into olive oil, for example — but for now we’re steering clear of anything that needs refrigeration. And we’re steering clear of vodka! 🙂

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