- Not all foods taste best when they’re fresh. Some benefit from short- or long-term ageing.
- The ageing process changes the flavour, texture, and makeup of foods like soup, cheese, wine, and more.
- Chef John Adler of Blue Apron discusses which foods get better with age and why.
We’ve been taught to religiously check expiration dates on foods when we buy and consume them for the risk of getting sick from food that’s past its prime. Not all foods, however, have such a short shelf life. Many products actually get better with time – meaning, the longer you can resist eating them, the better.
We spoke with Chef John Adler, the head of culinary at Blue Apron, the meal-kit service company, to find out exactly which foods get better with age and why.
With soups, flavours mellow and blend better when given some time to rest.
Whipping up a pot of soup to warm yourself on a wintry day? Better make it one or two days in advance, Chef Adler told INSIDER.
“Letting soups sit for a while before consuming allows the flavours to mellow and blend together more evenly. I like to wait at least overnight, if not a full 24 to 48 hours, before eating a soup I’ve made.”
Braised dishes, as well, benefit from a short period of rest to let the flavours develop.
Similar to soups, a long-cooked braised dish, whether pork, beef, or chicken, needs to rest so that the flavours can mellow nicely and become more cohesive, Chef Adler said.
He recommends leaving your braised dish for at least 24 hours before reheating and serving it for best results.
Flavours of umami emerge in cheeses like gouda and cheddar when they’re allowed to age.
Many cheeses get better with age, especially cheddar, gouda, parmigiano and pecorino, according to Chef Adler. That’s because ageing allows for the formation of calcium lactate crystals, which translate to hearty and complex flavours often described as umami.
Beef also gets that delicious umami flavour when it’s dry-aged for a period of time.
Umami is also produced by dry-ageing cuts of beef. The process also softens the meat and intensifies the overall flavour, said Chef Adler.
Nearly all types of wine are aged so tannins can mellow and aromatics can blend.
Wine is likely the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about aged products.
Most kinds of wine benefit from ageing, said Chef Adler, “allowing tannins to mellow and aromatics to blend together.”
Fermented foods and pickles should rest for at least a month for the acidity to mellow.
Chef Adler said that he prefers to let fermented and pickled foods, like kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut, “rest at least a month after pickling for the intense acidity to mellow and flavours to balance.”
He said this is because “Fermentation in its nature is a slow-ageing process that helps develop flavour, transform textures, and at times add to the nutritional benefit of foods.”
Salumi, which includes salami and prosciutto, are only edible thanks to the slow-ageing process.
Slow-ageing salumi, which are uncooked Italian cold cuts, like salami, prosciutto, mortadella, and bresaola, not only helps develop the meat’s aroma, flavour, and texture but also allows it to be consumed safely without cooking, Chef Adler said.
Infused liquors need some time to rest for the best flavour results.
Thinking of making some herb-infused liquors, like lavender-infused gin or basil-infused vodka, for some killer homemade cocktails? It’s a pretty simple process – the hardest part may be keeping your hands off your concoction while it ages, as Chef Adler recommends.
“Over time, herbal infusions in liquors and syrups help to mellow and enhance the flavours of the spirit without overwhelming it.”
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