Infuse, oil, spirit, water by Eric Prum and Josh Williams. Clarkson Potter/ Publishers: New York, 2015
3 ½ stars
I picked this book, Infuse, oil, spirit, water by Eric Prum and Josh Williams because the book was listed under “Canning and Preserving”. It was mislabelled. The book has nothing to do with Food Preservation, unless you’re talking about someone being pickled in alcohol.
Technically “Infuse” means to steep in liquid to extract the essential flavours or medicinal actions of the ingredients. You’ve heard me talk about herbal infusions as herbal teas, tinctures, and oil infusions. These are the basic ways to extract the essence of herbal goodness in a way that you can store it for future use. The book Infuse is not about that kind of infusion though.
Infuse is about flavour, both boozy and culinary. The book begins with oil infusions suitable for salad dressings and condiments. There is a recipe for Thai Prik Nam Pla that is simply store bought fish sauce and hot chilies, muddled and shaken together. None of the recipes are unusual or challenging. A novice cook can easily master every recipe.
The chapter on boozy infusions is the longest chapter with a full 62 pages of pictures, description, and recipes. There are recipes for limoncello, coffee liqueur, Irish Cream, and Cinnamon Whiskey.
The final chapter in Infuse is about water infusions. There are recipes for cold brewed teas and coffee, plus vitamin water. None of it is terribly complicated and there are no special techniques.
What I liked
The book has amazing photography and each recipe has a hero shot with an eye catching back drop of textured wood. The front and back covers are attractive, clean, and wholesome. The book is for beginners who are trying to get away from packaged condiments and cocktails and want to do more from scratch.
The recipes can all be made with simple tools, a mason jar with the mason top or another tight fitting and leak proof lid. The infusion technique is quick. Only a few of the recipes require long macerating – the peach bourbon is one of these.
What I didn’t like
There are no stories and very few words. The recipes are basic. An hour on pinterest and you’ll find the basic recipes online. The book doesn’t add anything original to the conversation. For instance, there is a recipe for spicy popcorn. It is based on a squirt of sriracha hot sauce and butter, microwaved for 30 seconds with a bit of honey. This is poured over warm pop corn. While it might be a quick snack that is better than microwaved popcorn, why not improve the ingredients, nutrition, and flavour by chucking the GMO canola oil and using rich tasting coconut oil? Or mixing the hot sauce using fresh chilies and olive oil instead of bottled hot sauce?
The book is a big ad for a gadget that the authors designed that lets you turn a regular mason jar into a bar container for shaking and pouring mixed drinks. The gadget, trademarked a Mason Top, figures into every hero shot. The authors admit that pouring any of the recipes from a regular cup is messy and unfriendly. So the reader is compelled to purchase this $20 gadget to keep their infusions clean and tidy. But is the mason top worth the $20 price? Only you can say.
Whose this book for?
College students and urban dwellers without access to fresh ingredients, or the time to get to know their kitchens, would like this book. Almost half the book focuses on recipes for alcoholic drinks, and this is where the book really shines. People who relish fine bourbon and cocktails will feel very at home with this book and the Mason Top. The water infused and oil infused sections of Infuse are weak and insipid in comparison.
If you like cocktails and roof top parties this book would be a fun summer reading. If you are more of a “country girl” that prefers herbal teas and real food ingredients, there are better food preservation books for your library.
I received a review copy of this book through Blogging for Books. Nevertheless, this review is my honest opinion of the book.