vrijdag 3 januari 2020

Mise-en-place : Making clear ice at home

As you may have noticed in my photos, during the last year I have started to make my own clear ice. There are a couple of very good reasons why you should try it :
  • Clear ice is much sexier on photo and it will absolutely impress your guests.
  • Clear ice doesn’t change the color of your cocktail. Even more, it will be almost invisible in your cocktail. 
  • Clear ice melts much slower, because there are no air bubbles inside. 
  • Clear ice won’t attract strange smells from other stuff in your freezer.
  • Clear ice won’t make your soda foam like crazy.
First, why isn’t all ice clear?
When water freezes from all directions towards the middle of the ice cube, all tiny air-bubbles and impurities are pushed to the middle where it gets locked in as a pretty much white substance. We are used to it and it won’t bother most people. It doesn’t even matter when you are using small cubes or pebbles. But when you serve a beautiful classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned or a Negroni, you really want a large cube of ice. Using a cube of clear ice will absolutely lift your cocktail to the next level.
You can buy clear ice in specialized wholesale stores, but is it hard to make your own clear ice at home ? Actually it isn’t, but it does take a little bit of practice.
Making your own clear ice by directional freezing
What do you need to make clear ice at home ?
  • A small insulated coolbox. Probably the smallest size you can find in your local camping store. Often blue with a white top. It has to be small enough to fit in your freezer. Most people have a very small maximum height in their freezer, so measure up before you go to the store. I bought my coolbox at AS Adventure. Probably the first time ever I went to a camping store voluntarily đŸ˜‰
  • A breadknife
  • A rubber hammer. You can find them in the same camping store or in any DIY shop.
  • A large cutting board
The first thing you need to do is remove the lid of the coolbox. You won’t need it anymore. The next part is the hardest part. It will probably take a few badges before you’re 100% sure of the timing. Fill the box with tab water and put it in the freezer (without the lid!). Now let it freeze until it’s more or less 70% frozen. Yes, this is definitely the hardest part and it’s different with every freezer. The trick is to remove the ice before it’s completely frozen. This way the air and impurities won’t be frozen, but remain in the water which you can easily remove.
I asked my #drinkstagram-buddies and got totally different answers, with freezing times between 24 and 36 hours. Try freezing for 24 hours and have a look at the result. Adjust accordingly.
What happens ? Because you let the lid off and all other sides of the box are insulated, the freezing goes directional and starts at the (open) top, freezing downward to the bottom of the box. If you let it freeze too long, everything will be frozen to a solid block, freezing the impurities into an unclear part near the bottom.
Of course I also “forgot” my block a couple of times and let it freeze for several days. No worries, you’ll just have a harder time cutting off the “unclear piece” of the ice block. This will be more or less half of the block.
If you get it right, you take the box out of your freezer when it’s only frozen for ±70%. You put the box upside down on your cutting board and wait a few minutes until the big block of ice slides out of the box. Put the box to the side. The ice block is now upside down on your board.
You’ll notice that the bottom half is actually a large block of sexy clear ice. The top half still has a big air bubble in it, filled with water. With the knife you can easily cut off the top part, only keeping the solid bottom. This wasn’t my best batch ever, I have had blocks with a smaller air/water bubble. It’s normal that your remaining block is more or less half of the total block.
How do you cut such a big block of ice ? Make a first cut with your breadknife. When you can put the knife steady in the cut, give it a blow with the rubber hammer, it will splice the block. If you own a meat-axe, it will also get the job done and it can handle the blows from the hammer a bit better.
I always cut the block into cubes, pack them in freezer bags to keep them clean and store them in the freezer, inside my open coolbox. Whenever I want to make a cocktail, I get a cube from the box and cut it to the right shape to match the size of the glass.
For cutting the cube into the right size for the glass I use an old, but still sharp steak knife. Remember, I’m talking about HOME use. Bartenders use specialized tools like I already talked about in an earlier article. They use (expensive!) ice-saws in different sizes, ice tridents and several types of knives.

Impress your guests and try it out for yourself. It can be done pretty cheap and it’s really not that hard to do. You just need a bit of practice to get it right đŸ˜‰

Disclaimer : All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

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