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Cocktails, stock and perfect cheese: the future of sous vide | The Tool Shed

Cocktails, stock and perfect cheese: the future of sous vide

Join us as we explore the current frontiers of sous-vide cooking. Professional chefs and amateur cooks are continually discovering new and unexpected uses for vacuum bags and water baths. If you think you know everything that sous vide can offer, be prepared to think again.

For many ingredients, the benefits of cooking sous vide are already widely known. As you may have discovered for yourself, it is a great way to cook perfect poached eggs, tender meat, vibrant veg and delicate fish. However, this highly versatile technique has so much more potential. New uses for vacuum bags and water baths are being identified all the time by professionals in state-of-art development kitchens and by enterprising amateurs at home. It is hard to keep up with the constant stream of innovations but, to give you a flavour, we have brought together a selection of the most exciting developments.

Barman prepares exotic cocktails

Mixology

Spirits can be flavoured using five different methods:

  • compounding (adding natural or artificial flavours to the spirit);
  • introducing flavour during distillation;
  • infusion (immersing another ingredient in the spirit);
  • maceration (like infusion but the added ingredient is broken up);
  • percolation (heating the spirit and another ingredient together).

The last of these methods is the quickest and most convenient but it also has a major drawback. The alcohol often evaporates during cooking, leaving you with a flavoursome but teetotal spirit – not necessarily what you want if you are planning a cocktail party! For this reason, traditional recipes usually recommend using an infusion method to make drinks such as sloe gin and plum brandy, which means waiting months and months for small amounts of spirit to mature in large jars of fruit.

However, there is now another way. Cooking the spirit and flavourings sous vide offers a solution to the problem of percolation because the sealed vacuum bag prevents the alcohol from escaping as vapour. This not only saves time compared to infusion but it also produces spirits with fuller flavours and more vibrant colours, making for spectacular cocktails. To see for yourself, try our easy sous-vide sloe gin recipe.

Dairy products on a white background.

Dairy

The perceived hassle of making cheese and yoghurt from scratch is off-putting for many dairy lovers but sous vide makes the process so easy that there is no excuse for not giving it go. The most basic recipes involve little more than sealing some milk in a vacuum bag and heating it slowly in a water bath. One of the easiest cheeses to make sous vide is fresh ricotta, which is ready in less than two hours and uses only three ingredients: milk, salt and distilled vinegar.

It is not only fresh cheeses that can be prepared using a sous vide method. Adventurous amateur cheesemakers can produce aged varieties by heating the milk, culture and rennet together in a water bath, then straining, salting and aging the curds in the usual manner. You can even make crème fraîche sous vide. Simply combine double cream and buttermilk in a vacuum bag and cook in a water bath for a few hours.

A water bath is also ideal for turning jars of milk into homemade yoghurt. This is because the bacteria responsible for this transformation need to be kept at a constant and precisely controlled temperature in order to grow. If they are allowed to cool down, they will become dormant; if they become too hot, they will die off. Using a water bath, these disastrous outcomes can be easily avoided, producing perfect yoghurt every time.

Chicken broth, bouillon, clear soup.

Stocks, soups and broths

Depending on the type of water bath you own, you might be able to use your equipment to make flavoursome stock. Unfortunately, this method will not work with an immersion circulator but, if you own a water oven, all you need to do is fill it with fresh water, add bones and roasted vegetables and cook slowly for twenty-four hours. Essentially, you are creating an incredibly precise stockpot. Since there is no need for vacuum bags, this technique is wonderfully simple and the water bath only needs a brief clean afterwards and then it is ready to use again. You can use the same method to make thin soups and broths. At his Michelin-starred restaurant, Sat Bains has even been known to rest meat in a water bath filled with melted butter!

As you can see, water baths and vacuum bags can be put to a diverse array of uses and the examples described here are only the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities seem almost endless and, as long as chefs and amateurs keep experimenting, there is no telling how far the sous-vide revolution will change the way we think about cooking.

Courtesy of www.greatbritishchefs.com

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