Building Blocks of Flavor: Water Extraction

Water doesn’t put anything into food except a bland quality.

To achieve an ingredient’s essence, you need to remove the water. When you sweat onions and garlic, you are removing the water from these elements. After you do that, you add tomatoes, cook some more, watch the water evaporate and that builds flavor.

Flavor is being built while you are cooking.

This also becomes apparent when making desserts. Oftentimes when making a berry flavored desserts, you oftentimes will cook the berries down to reduce the water.

While it may be common sense that cooking and boiling will reduce water content, you also need to remember that this process will also destroy supporting botanicals and the flavor might not be as good as you think.

This is where alcohol is your friend. Alcohol has the terrific ability to extract flavor and do it without heat. The compounds that give mint its minty flavor are alcohol soluble and you can extract that flavor with alcohol. Just be forewarned that the alcohol will impart its taste if you are not cooking it out.

Most flavors are not water soluble. Some are oil soluble which unfortunately puts a flavor of its own in. The other choice to make extracts is propylene glycol which is also a great flavor carrier.

Extracts made with alcohol and propylene glycol will also be protected against quick spoilage.