The Oleo saccharum is an ingredient prepared with citrus peels and sugar, already used in the 19th century to flavour (and sweeten) punch or other drinks.
The name suggests that it is a sugar-based preparation (saccharum) with oil (oleo) where the latter is not the fatty substance we use in the kitchen, but the set of essential oils and aromatic components contained in the peel of citrus fruits.
I find this ingredient simple to make, but very interesting and versatile because it allows to give aromatic complexity to cocktails.
How to make the oleo saccharum.
To make this ingredient, no special equipment is needed, even if, as I will explain later in this article, some can be helpful if we must prepare (and store) great quantities.
First you need to wash and dry your citrus fruit with a towel. The mechanical drying action removes any deposits or waxes present on the fruits.
Then, with the help of a peeler, remove the peels and take away the white part with a knife. The white part is called albedo and, in some citrus, has a bitter taste and prevents the release of aromas.
At this point, cut the peels in slices, pour into a jar, add grain sugar and smash it all with a muddler. Let it rest for at least an hour, mixing from time to time.
Depending on how much sugar you have added you might get a different result: by adding no more than 30gr of sugar per lemon (lime will require less sugar, orange and grapefruit more) all the sugar should dissolve and you should get a liquid oleo saccharum (as in the pic on the side). If you use more sugar, it will not dissolve completely. On this I am flexible: I generally tend not to dissolve all the sugar because I find it more practical to use (my proportion is 50 grams of sugar per lime). I use it often instead of simple grain sugar, for example, in Daiquiri or Caipirinha.
How to accelerate the extraction and avoid the loss of aromas.
The method I have described is absolutely valid and is an excellent starting point. However, we can do better using a vacuum machine and a sous-vide bath.
If you have muddled the peels in sugar, put everything in a vacuum bag and cook sous-vide at a temperature not higher than 50°C/122°F, for one hour. You will get an even better extraction. Be careful not to exaggerate, or you’ll risk to extract the most unpleasant aromatic components!
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