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Old 03-22-2014, 11:53 AM   #1
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Alcohol unlocks flavor

I have read several places that there are certain flavors that cannot be dissolved with water or fat (i.e. you cannot taste them), but will dissolve in alcohol rendering them available to your palate. My question is this:
Must alcohol remain in the dish to taste these flavors, or are the flavors locked away again after all (almost) the alcohol is cooked out of the dish?

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Old 03-22-2014, 12:03 PM   #2
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If you are talking about something like vanilla extract, the amount of alcohol in any given dish will be virtually nonexistent.

If you have concerns due to religious beliefs or allergies, I don't have a good answer, other than to suggest you use fresh ingredients whenever possible rather than extracts.
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Old 03-22-2014, 12:11 PM   #3
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Thank you. I am sorry, I did not make myself clear. I am not concerned about the alcohol content in the finished dish. I was concerned about whether the unique flavors unlocked due to the use of alcohol would again be lost (lock up) as the alcohol is cooked out of the dish, say during a long simmer process.
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Old 03-22-2014, 12:15 PM   #4
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Thank you. I am sorry, I did not make myself clear. I am not concerned about the alcohol content in the finished dish. I was concerned about whether the unique flavors unlocked due to the use of alcohol would again be lost (lock up) as the alcohol is cooked out of the dish, say during a long simmer process.

I think the flavors would remain behind even after the alcohol is evaporated off. e.g. baked goods flavored with vanilla still have vanilla flavor after baking where a lot of the alcohol is cooked off.
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Old 03-22-2014, 12:23 PM   #5
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I don't think vanilla requires alcohol to release flavor. Seems seeds and pod(s) do quite well in milk, custards and sugar.
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Old 03-22-2014, 12:43 PM   #6
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I don't think vanilla requires alcohol to release flavor. Seems seeds and pod(s) do quite well in milk, custards and sugar.
Different flavor compounds are released in different ways - by fat, water, alcohol, the Maillard reaction, heat, and proximity I'd guess that even within a given food or ingredient, using more methods results in more flavor.
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Old 03-22-2014, 12:51 PM   #7
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Different flavor compounds are released in different ways - by fat, water, alcohol, the Maillard reaction, heat, and proximity I'd guess that even within a given food or ingredient, using more methods results in more flavor.
I realize all that, but I'm thinking the alcohol in these extracts is more for preservation and ease of delivery. Not that alcohol allows more flavor extraction than some other means.
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Old 03-22-2014, 01:01 PM   #8
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I realize all that, but I'm thinking the alcohol in these extracts is more for preservation and ease of delivery. Not that alcohol allows more flavor extraction than some other means.
I'm not saying alcohol allows more than others - I'm saying it pulls flavors out of foods that are different from those pulled out by other means. So if you use vanilla sugar but no alcohol, you won't get the wider variety of flavors you would get if you used both.

Note I'm using vanilla as an example. I don't know what specific foods have flavors that are enhanced by alcohol, although I'm pretty sure fond does
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Old 03-22-2014, 01:33 PM   #9
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Even in a long simmer you are still left with quite a bit of alcohol. The is always some amount of alcohol left no matter how long you cook it. So the question is really moot as it just won't ever happen in reality.

Was this a practical concern or more of just a theoretical concern? If practical, don't worry about it. If you are wondering just for the sake of wondering then I would say that once the flavors are released they would not disappear in the absence of any alcohol, but that is really just a guess on my part.
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Old 03-22-2014, 02:15 PM   #10
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Vanilla is extracted from the pods/beans by soaking them in alcohol. The result is vanilla extract-strongly vanilla flavored alcohol. If you use this extract in a baked good, most of the alcohol will cook off but the flavor will remain.
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