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TIP OF THE DAY: Flavor Your Water With Fresh Fruits (Spa Water)

You can buy a bottle of water flavored with extracts, or you can extract the flavor of fresh fruit by yourself.

Whether we’re home alone or expecting guests, we usually flavor a pitcher of water with fresh fruits (or add your own mint or lemon extract into tap water). The subtle infusion from the fresh fruit, in our humble opinion, is more delicious than any bottled water flavored with fruit extracts.

Plus, there’s lots of eye appeal.

FOOD 101

There are natural extracts, artificial extracts and essential oils.

  • A natural extract (a.k.a. natural flavor) is derived from a fruit or vegetable, their juices, and other sources most home cooks don’t address (barks, herbs, flowers, roots, etc.). The plant may be cold pressed, macerated or soaked in alcohol
  • An artificial flavor (a.k.a. artificial extract or favoring, as in imitation maple extract and imitation vanilla extract), does not come from a plant or animal source, and instead is generated in a lab by combining different food-safe components into a variation of the natural flavor. They are less expensive than natural extracts, and also used by people who avoid any type of alcohol (e.g., in halal cuisine).
  • An essential oil is intensely flavored compared to a natural extract, and the production is more complex: it is obtained through distillation, to yield what is known as the plant essence—a very small amount of volatile liquid (the essential oil), which is why they are typically more expensive than regular liquid extracts. But you need to use less of them.

RECIPE: HOMEMADE FLAVORED WATER INFUSED WITH FRUIT

At a minimum, use two items from the fruits and herbs lists, i.e., two fruits or one fruit and one herb. You can combine as many as you like: The basic recipe in our home includes cucumber, citrus, strawberries and an herb.

Ingredients Per Pitcher (64 Ounces)

  • 50 ounces of water, tap or bottled spring water
  • 1 cup seasonal fruits (see list below)
  • Handful of herb sprigs, to taste (basil, lavender, lemon verbena, mint, rose geranium, rosemary, thyme—use only one of these)
  • Optional: 1 large cucumber, unpeeled, sliced
  • Optional spices: cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, sliced ginger root, vanilla beans

Preparation

1. SLICE the fruits into wheels, retaining the peels (berries don’t need to be sliced).

2. PLACE all ingredients in a 64-ounce jug or pitcher. Chill for at least one hour or overnight (much longer and the fruit will begin to break down).

3. SERVE. If guests are pouring their own, i.e. when grilling outdoors,

Vegetable Water Pitcher

Orange Mint Water

Apple Juice & Fresh Fruit

Top: Cucumber, peaches and basil leaves, served at Olio | NYC. Center: Oranges and mint, at Bonnie Plants. Bottom: As a treat for kids, you can add use carbonated water and apple juice with fresh fruit (photo Pisco Porton).

In the winter, cucumber, mint and citrus slices (grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange/clementine (seed free?)/tangerine slices are good.You can also vary the herbs. Fresh herbs, grown in greenhouses, are available year-round.

SEASONAL FRUITS

  • Spring and Summer Fruits: berries, cucumber, melon, pineapple, stone fruits (especially peaches).
  • Winter Fruits: apples, berries*, cherimoya, any citrus (red grapefruits and blood oranges are our favorites, but lemons, limes, mandarins† and oranges† are always welcome), cucumber, dried berries (cherries, cranberries) grapes, kiwifruit, lychee (another favorite of ours), mango, papaya, persimmon, pomegranate arils.

Avoid fruits that will cloud the water, e.g. bananas and figs.

WHAT IF YOU HAVE NO FRESH FRUITS AT HAND?

While there’s no visual impact, you can use extracts to flavor water. Experiment with a dropper and juice glass of water to see what you like.

  • Use 1/2 teaspoon extract in a quart of water; taste and adjust as desired.
  • You can combine two flavors, e.g. banana and strawberry, lemon and anise, chocolate and cherry. You can be as basic (e.g., lime extract) or as creative (e.g., anise and hazelnut, brandy or rum and cherry, lavender) as you like.

MORE INFUSED WATER IDEAS

 

 

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*Raspberries and strawberries are available year-round.

The difference between mandarins and oranges: http://blog.thenibble.com/2015/12/22/tip-of-the-day-seasonal-fruit/.




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