“Sous vide” is a precision cooking technique whereby food is placed into a sealed plastic bag and submerged in water so it can heat at a low temperature over the course of a few hours. The main benefit of working with this method is that it brings a more exact science to the non-baking side of the kitchen by guaranteeing that food is cooked to a consistent result every time.
As things go, I recently received the gift of a precision cooking device, and I became ecstatic that I could now sous vide on my own and cease living vicariously through others. After I removed the gadget from the box, I noticed that the device not only had a sleek look to it, but I found during setup that it could connect to my smart phone over Bluetooth, and that the timer and temperature could be controlled through an app. These gadgets are totally accessible for the average home chef, but imagine explaining them to Auguste Escoffier.
Anyone who does basic research into recipes tailored for a precision cooker would be forgiven if their main takeaway was that the sous vide method was only capable of cooking meat. Though the technique’s predominant association is undoubtedly with proteins, deeper inspection unveils legitimate vegetable recipes (like honey-butter glazed carrots), and desserts (crème brulee.)
The truly ground-breaking discovery for me though was that not only were alcohol infusions possible using the precision cooker, but the timetable for completion shrunk from days or weeks into just a few hours.
Being that I’m someone who’s tried their hand at long-term alcohol infusions in the past, I immediately took to this newfound knowledge by settling on a cherry-infused bourbon — half because I’d never thought to combine those ingredients, and half because I happened to have them both on hand at that moment.
Being that this was my first experiment with infusion using the sous vide technique, I followed the instructions exactly and kept it manageable with the ingredient proportions, using only:
1 pound of cherries
1.5 cups of bourbon
@135 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours
Yeah, that’s all.
I grabbed the same pot I use for boiling pasta, and I filled it with water and clamped the precision cooker to it, setting it for 135 degrees.
While the water heated up, I shifted over to the cherries and removed all the stems while also slicing them open from the bottom (sampling the particularly juicy ones for myself along the way), and I finished by placing them in a large zipper bag (cherry seeds still intact.) Once the fruit was inside the bag, I mashed up the contents and then added the bourbon into the mix (I used mid-to-low grade stuff.)
By the time the prepped bag was ready for the water, the precision cooker was holding steady at 135 degrees. Without a vacuum-sealed bag, the most efficient way to rid the pouch of excess air (so it doesn’t float) is to leave a corner unzipped so that, as the bag submerges, the water itself can do the work of pushing out the air. Doing this should enable the bag to have no issue staying underwater, and when this is achieved zip it fully closed.
Once the bag was in the water and the timer had been set, nothing more needed to be touched or even looked at for the full two hours, and I left the kitchen entirely.
After the two hours elapsed, I carefully removed the bag from the water and placed it in a small bowl of ice water I had prepared in the sink in order to halt the heating process. Once cooled, I transferred the bag’s contents into a pitcher, and from there used a strainer to separate the liquids from the solids (tossing the latter into the trash), and poured what remained into a fancy repurposed glass bottle.
The final mixture is best served cold, so I placed the bottle into the refrigerator (it’d become an ice block in the freezer) for later consumption.
When I finally served the finished infusion to myself, I drank it on ice and without any additional mixer, and was very pleased with the cherry-to-bourbon ratio (and the overall combination of the two ingredients.) After further tastings, this time with a small group of willing imbibers, I deemed this experiment an unmitigated success.
As a note on the specific recipe I used, by virtue of every human having their own palate, some might find the outcome too cherry-heavy, while others believe there isn’t enough. Maybe some want to add sugar into the process to heighten the taste, while others opt to slice open a vanilla bean to attempt a new flavor dimension. Perhaps there’s a mixer out there that perfectly fits alongside these ingredients. The measurements and elements listed should be considered merely starting points, and adjusted to fit any personal taste as needed. The only correct result is the one that’s most delicious to the person drinking it.
As for the sous vide technique itself, the process was simple, inexpensive, and eye-opening. It’s not often that those three themes can be strung together and truly meant, but the infusion game has been changed, and it’s time to change with it.