Techniques

Maceration and Infusion

InfusedOils-735968
To macerate is to soak food (usually fruit or vegetables) in liquid and sometimes other ingredients to infuse flavor.

Infusion refers to the soaking of foods (usually plants, such as herbs, flowers, or teas) in water or other liquid.

The term used when the food soaked is meat is marinate.

In general, flavors transfer faster at higher temperatures (ever heard of Sun-Tea?). However there is a risk to using heat.

When infusing plants, heat quickly wilts leaves and excessive temperatures will bring out natural bitterness that our palettes find unpleasant. (Most fine tea makers know the water should never actually boil).

When macerating anything else, be aware that high temperature begins the cooking process. For meats it is best to allot enough time for slow, cool transfer of flavor. Fruits and vegetables will cook with heat too, so be prepared for altered texture. (Novice pickle makers are often disappointed by this phenomenon.)

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