TECHNIQUE #2: CENTRIFUGATION
Centrifuges separate mixtures based on density—like oil from water, or solids from liquids—by spinning very quickly. The spinning generates centrifugal force that causes products to separate that would never separate due to the force of gravity alone.
If your kung-fu isn't as strong, expect to pay $1000 to $1200 a pop. Centrifuges pay for themselves if you make a lot of juice.
There are several reasons centrifuges aren't widespread in kitchens. They are expensive. They can be dangerous. And, perhaps most importantly, chefs just don't know which ones to buy. Centrifuges that don't spin fast enough or have inadequate capacity are useless, and centrifuges that have more capabilities than a chef needs are huge, mega-expensive, and therefore worse than useless. After a couple years of testing I recommend one type of inexpensive and versatile centrifuge: the three-liter benchtop. As the name implies, these guys can handle three liters per batch in their swinging bucket rotors, and the good ones can generate force in excess of 4000 times the force of gravity. They are about two feet by two feet by one foot.
I have two Jouan three-liter centrifuges, which I mainly use to clarify juice. I paid a grand total of 350 dollars including shipping for both because I'm an eBay ninja. If your kung-fu isn't as strong, expect to pay $1000 to $1200 a pop. Even at that price, they pay for themselves pretty quickly if you make a lot of juice. With both of them running I can clarify about 18 liters per hour. Yields are incredible—much higher than with any other clarification technique. Expect 75-95% yield depending on the water content of your product. The basic technique: blend fruit in a Vita-Prep either alone or with a liquid (usually liquor) and add two grams of Pectinex SP-L enzyme per liter or product. (The enzyme breaks down the fruit's pectin and hemicelluloses that prevent complete clarification. You can get some from us.) Then let the puree rest for 20 minutes (so the enzyme can do its thing), and spin it at 4000 times the force of gravity for 15 minutes. Strain the juice and put it through a coffee filter. The solids will be left behind in the form of a sometimes delicious puck of sludge.
Here are the drinks we made with the 'fuge:
Cocktail #1: Bananas Justino (pronounced "who-steeno")
We made this drink for the Star Chef Congress cocktail party.
We blend bananas, vanilla bean, and Zacapa 23 rum, then clarify; pour over coconut water ice cubes (start with Taste Nirvana coconut water, the best we've found); squeeze in a lime; and toss in a star anise for aroma. Done.
Zacapa 23 Solera rum
star anise pods
Per 750-milliliter bottle of rum, add three ripe bananas, half a vanilla bean, and two grams Pectinex SP-L. Blend in a Vita Prep and let rest 20 minutes. Spin at 4000 G's for 15 minutes and strain through a chinois and then through a coffee filter. Freeze coconut milk into one-ounce ice cubes. Put ice cubes in an Old Fashioned glass, pour banana rum over the ice, stir briefly, then squeeze a quarter lime into the glass and garnish with star anise. If you want you can keep the rum cold and water it slightly before pouring. If your limes aren't juicy enough you can add some extra lime juice. Damn delicious.
Cocktail #2: September Issue
This is the drink I made for Jeffrey Steingarten and Dave Chang's Vogue party during Fashion Week. It's based on concord grapes and rye whiskey. We used McKenzie Rye from the Finger Lakes Distillery because it has a strong rye nose (smells just like the grain) that stays with the drink even after it's mixed. We used Root, a delicious root beer liquor from Pennsylvania, like you would bitters—just a couple of dashes per drink. It doesn't make the drink taste like root beer—it just rounds it out. For acidity we used lemon, and for sweetness we used maple syrup. Everything but the lemon is local to us New Yorkers. We garnished the whole shebang with maple-candied lemon peel.
Nastassia and the modified chocolate grinder crushing concord grapes.
We made our own concord grape juice. It's a pain in the behind, but worth it. No store-bought concord is as good as the stuff you make yourself, since you can control just how long the pulp stays with skins. Unfortunately you can't just blend concord grapes to make juice. If you blend them, the seeds will make a tannic, bitter juice. So you have to crush the grapes instead. We first passed the grapes through an old-school ice crusher, then added enzyme and processed them in a modified chocolate grinder. After that, we clarified them in the centrifuge.
We served this drink with a side-shot of Nils' favorite—Scotch and dry-roasted peanuts blended and re-distilled in our rotary evaporator—to make our version of a peanut butter and jelly drink. Not an original combination, but a delicious one worth revisiting.
2 parts McKenzie Rye
1.3 parts concord grape juice
1 part water
0.5 parts strained lemon juice
0.25 parts maple syrup (grade B)
3 dashes Root Liquor per 2 ounces rye
Maple-Candied Lemon Peel (recipe below)
Mix everything but the lemon peel together and chill it with liquid nitrogen (or mix it before hand, freeze it and shake it in a quart container; see my post on Cocktail Science).
Maple-Candied Lemon Peel:
People seem to like these—I know I do. Just peel long slices of lemon rind off the lemon (we get eight per lemon), making sure to get only the flavedo (the yellow part) and not the albedo (the white part). Blanch the peels three times quickly in boiling water and shock them in ice water. Vacuum bag them with cold maple syrup and simmer the bag in water for 20 minutes. Cut open the bag and put the peels and syrup in a pan to reduce the maple syrup a bit so the peels will gel when cooled. I don't know the temperature; we do it by eye. Lay the peels on a Silpat mat to dry.
Figronis waiting for vacuum infused cucumbers.
Cocktail #3: Carbonated Figroni
Hendricks gin, Aperol, clarified mission figs, a squeeze of lime, and bubbles. What could be better? How about that same cocktail garnished with a cucumber that's vacuum-infused with Hendricks, Dolin white vermouth (not the dry one), simple syrup, and salt.
2 parts Hendrick's gin
2 parts Aperol
2.5 parts clarified mission fig juice (blend figs with enzyme and centrifuge as above—just make sure to clean and trim the figs well so they don't have a dirty aroma)
pinch of salt
Mix everything together, chill, and carbonate three times at 40 psi (you carbonate three times to get rid of entrained air and bubble nucleation sites). Garnish with a squeeze of lime and a vacuum infused cucumber.
NEXT: Learn about rotary evaporation, the final technique