Sous Vide Method

Sous Vide: Fruit Syrups

Heat is a great tool for extracting flavor, and when it comes to syrups, a tried and true way of quickly infusing a solution of sugar and water with vibrant flavor and aroma. The only problem is when dealing with fragile ingredients, heat can sometimes do more harm than good.  With fresh fruits in particular – especially delicate ones like berries – we’ve often been haunted by the sad reality that heat can sometimes battle vibrancy and freshness, and in their place can be a sad and artificial interpretation of the original ingredient.

Recently, we’ve been  experimenting with low and measured heat applications with fruit syrups. We call this “sous vide” even though most of the time vacuum isn’t a huge part of the process; what we’re really doing is using heat in very precise ways to speed up the process of flavor extraction, but not apply too much to manipulate the freshness of the fruit.

Raspberries, for example are an important component in classic cocktails – the Clover Club is a requirement for any bartender’s repertoire – but we’ve always been bothered by the inconsistency that comes with muddling fresh raspberries into the drink.  The size of each berry can be different (even if minutely) and so we can never be sure the drink will be the same each time. The same sentiment is true of almost all muddled fresh ingredients, and though it’s our goal to preserve the identity of our natural ingredients as much as possible, as bartenders, we need the convenience, consistency, and stability that a syrup brings to service.

Development Process

Making a raspberry syrup by either blending raspberries with simple syrup or allowing raspberries to soak in simple syrup overnight was OK, but the mixture is exceptionally unstable. By placing this mix on a stove and cranking up the heat, we gained stability but quickly lost the raspberry’s inherent freshness, turning what was once a clear and focused flavor into something that was candy-ish. It was tasty, sure, but it was something different than the raw ingredient. Closer to jam, less like chewing on a raspberry. No dice.

Our first ah-ha! moment came thanks to a good friend and crazy talented chef, Phillip Kirschen-Clark. In collaborating with him on a project a couple years back, we were talking about this same problem – that cooked fruit syrups lose their luster quickly – and he opened our eyes to indirect heat extraction. By boiling a small amount of water in a pot, setting a stainless bowl above with the syrup and ingredients inside, covering it in plastic wrap, and allowing the steam heat to cook the syrup gently and evenly from below. What came out the other side was a breakthrough in flavor clarity, an elegant and intensely flavored syrup that tastes closer to raw raspberries than anything we’d been able to pin down.

Getting our hands on a Polyscience Immersion Circulator changed the game again, allowing us to dial in very specific temperatures for syrup preparation and offset the labor intensiveness of indirect heat extraction. An immersion circulator is essentially a high quality heating coil controlled by a little computer. When immersed into a water bath, the computer accurately controls the temperature of the water, keeping it consistent for extended time – like cruise control for heat. By placing our syrup in a sealed bag (or sealed jar) and keeping it immersed in the heated water, the syrup cooks consistently from all sides without any spikes or troughs in temperature – just nice, even, continual heat. This method, known widely as sous vide cooking, is all the hot-shit rage in cooking these days, and it’s quickly becoming the only way we make syrups using fresh ingredients. Raspberry Syrup, Pineapple Gum, Demerara Gum, house made Tonic, there’s just no two ways about it, the technique is here to stay for our crew.

Temperature

Different ingredients require different temperatures, and that’s another great asset of sous vide syrups: the ability to be laser-focused and precise for extended periods of time. This is even more important when considering fragile ingredients – citrus, being a prime example. The moment even a little bit of heat is applied to citrus juice (lemon or lime, for example), their flavor rapidly changes. It’s why pasteurized juice is bullshit and will never match freshly pressed juice. In the case of some of our citrus-based syrups, we use very low heat for long periods of time to make sure that the syrup never tips towards that artificial flavor. Our Meyer Lemon Cordial (recipe coming soon), for example, uses the juice of meyer lemon as the water component in a syrup, along with zest of the fruit and cane sugar, cooked at 125F for two hours. The result is a delicate but pungent syrup, encompassing both the aromatics of the zest and the juicy acidity of the juice.

Syrup Color

In the case of raspberry syrup, we’ve found that keeping the berries whole and cooking in a simple syrup inside the sealed bag (see photos to the left)  produces a beautifully clear syrup, vibrantly red and transparent. The first interaction we have with a drink is its appearance – it’s an important consideration – and so sous vide presents another asset in the visual identity of a cocktail.

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On That Note,

Raspberry Syrup (Sous Vide)

Tools:

  • Immersion Circulator
  • Water Bath
  • Gram Scale
  • Fine Gram Scale
  • Large Zip Lock Bag

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams Fresh Raspberries, washed
  • 1000 grams Simple Syrup (recipe here)
  • 5 grams Citric Acid

 

Raspberries start to come into season in the early summer, but really come into their own in August through early October. There are over 200 species of raspberries all within the Rubus genus, with the European red raspberry (Rubus ideaus) as by far the most common. Raspberries should be chosen from the store or market when they are ripe (but not overly ripe), dry, and evening colored. Always keep refrigerated, and use within a few days.

Method:

1. Fill water basin with water and place immersion circulator inside
2. Set circulator to 135F
3. Meanwhile, carefully measure and combine ingredients seperately
4. Transfer all to zip lock bag and seal, removing as much as possible
5. Crush raspberries inside bag
6. When circulator has reached 135F, place sealed infusion inside the water
7. After two hours, remove bag from water bath
8. Transfer syrup to an ice and water bath until it reaches room temperature
9. Strain syrup through fine chinois (superbag, preferably)
10. Place inside storage vessels, label, and date
11. Store refrigerated

Sunny Day Real Estate

We created this drink first for The Parish in Downtown LA. Sadly, that beautiful bar is no longer in business, but we’ve returned again and again to this recipe as a great example of how complex low-ABV drinks can be.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Dolin Dry
  • 0.75 oz Raspberry Syrup
  • 0.5 oz Aperol
  • 0.5 oz Lemon Juice
  • Top w/ Seltzer

Method:

Shake with ice, strain into Collins glass with ice.

Glass:

Collins

Garnish:

Lemon Wedge

Origin:

Alex Day