Macerate, marinade, salt, sugar, food preservation
In Latin, maceratus means to soften, so maceration consists of submerging the food in a liquid environment to extract its flavor, providing softness and texture. Alcoholic beverages such as wine or liqueurs form the basis of maceration, although fruit juices can also be used. The liquid part of the maceration can be consumed as a final product or utilized in the preparation of sweet or savory sauces. Fresh fruit brandies made with arbutus, fig or sour cherries, are examples of maceration.
We can also flavor and humidify fresh or dehydrated food with the maceration technique, such as fruit, consuming them, after macerating, in their own liquid, or by adding an alcoholic beverage. Strawberries, raisins, cherries or plums are examples of fruit that can be macerated.
Fresh or dried leaves of some plants are equally suitable to be macerated for medicinal purposes, extracting essences without applying heat, this way preserving their properties. Common examples in the Mediterranean region are rosemary, chamomile, thyme, or mint.
The maceration time depends on the type of food and the degree of flavor and tenderness we intend to provide. While fresh and soft fruit, for example, may require only 20 to 30 minutes to macerate, harder fruits like apple may need 3 to 4 hours. Dried fruit, such as plums or raisins, may take 24 hours. The amount of sugar, the alcoholic beverage, the temperature, and the ripening of the food are all factors that influence the maceration process.
A marinade intends to season, soften, or intensify the flavor of food. This method involves placing the food in a mixture of water, spices and an acidic component. It can also be used as a pre-cooking method by adding an acidic ingredient (vinegar, lemon, lime).
Olive oil, vinegar, lemon, aromatic herbs, salt, spices, wine, beer, other alcoholic beverages, onion, garlic, parsley or coriander, are examples of ingredients that can be at the base of a marinade. This method is often applied to meat, since, besides intensifying flavor, it increases the receptiveness of meat to cooking. Normally, marinated food is cooked afterwards, after exposing it for a few hours to the mixture of selected ingredients. A fish fillet may need 30 minutes to 1 hour, while beef or poultry may be marinated for several hours. Certain confections keep the food in a marinade for a period longer than 24 hours, as is the case with chanfana, a traditional Portuguese dish with goat meat.
Maceration and marinade intend to intensify flavor and soften the texture of the food.
Both methods facilitate cooking procedures. In some cases, as with meat, they can be used as pre-cooking technique.
Many ingredients used in maceration and marinades are rich in antioxidants, impacting positively the nutritional value of the prepared food. The combination of flavors resulting from these ingredients also reduces the need for salt or sugar, with clear health benefits.
Marinades can also be made in vacuum (link to the fiche basic mod. 3, unit 2). There are today many options of pre-marinated vacuum food that can be easily acquired in supermarkets.
Maceration: brandy, macerated fruit (strawberries, apple, pineapple, raisings, plums) and herbs (chamomile, basil, sage, lavender, rosemary, thyme, mint).
Marinade: fish and seafood (salmon, prawns), meat (beef, pork, poultry).
To avoid the proliferation of microorganisms and odors, the marinade should be kept in the refrigerator and covered with a film.
Both in the maceration and marinade methods, the amount of salt and sugar should be reduced to diminish health problems. Aromatic herbs, for example, are a good alternative.
The use of certain ingredients, such as beer, in marinades, reduces the risk of producing potentially carcinogenic substances during cooking, such as hydrocarbons.
When longer periods of macerating or marinating are needed, we should monitor the food to avoid decomposition. Some indicators are color change or the presence of mold on the surface.