Special Thanks to Katie Kelly Bell(@katiebell3) for sharing this recipe on Forbes:
The aesthetics of a wooden oak barrel lend the imagination vivid imagery of alcohol – and let’s be honest, with something as classy as a wooden barrel, we usually think of bourbon. Oak barrels are diverse, though – just because they work perfectly for bourbon doesn’t mean that you have to constrain yourself to aging just alcohol.
Many other foods get better with age, even though none are nearly as publicized as aged liquor is. But if you enjoy one of the foods that can be aged, well, you’re in luck – the pallet definition that can be achieved with a few weeks to years of aging is very noticeable. For example, if you’re a hot sauce aficionado, your taste buds will be screaming in ecstasy at the sight of some aged hot sauce.
Here are 4 food items that you can age in your charred oak barrels. If you don’t have a barrel yet, we have wooden barrels for sale – you can pick one up by clicking here.
After that description of hot sauce, let’s start there.
Item #1 – Barrel Aged Hot Sauce
Usually, when you’re putting hot sauce on something, you’re not going for a light flavor – you’re going for the searing, eye-watering, oh-so-good, almost painful rush of heat to your senses. If this sounds accurate, aging hot sauce is right up your alley – when it ages, it develops an entire new layer of hotness, and the flavor of it is accentuated, too.
Now, some people play around with mixing alcohol and hot sauce. That’s one path to take, but aging your hot sauce for the sole purpose of using it on your food is the path we’re going to go down. All you have to do is load your wooden barrel with the sauce, seal it in the same way you would if you were aging alcohol, and wait two to four weeks.
Once you’re done, test some out by comparing it to the normal version of whatever you’re aging – Sriracha, Frank’s, whatever. You’ll notice a more complex flavor with a little bit more kick.
Very important: make sure that you thoroughly clean and cure your barrel before and after aging hot sauce. Because of the powerful flavor, even a little bit left over can ruin your next batch/product. You can pick up a cleaning kit here.
As you’re probably not using gallons upon gallons of hot sauce per month, pick up a 1L barrel from us for aging it.
Item #2 – Tea
If you’re a caffeine person, then you’re either a coffee person or a tea person. You might be both, but most have a preference of one over the other.
If that preference is tea and you want to step your tea game up, try aging the actual leaves themselves. When left out in the open, tea leaves will dry up, but when contained in an airtight container like a wooden oak barrel, their flavor gets infinitely more diverse.
You can pick up loose tea leaves at specialty stores – regular supermarkets usually won’t sell them.
The process is the same as alcohol and hot sauce – just cure the barrel, open it up, load the leaves in, and seal it. The only “catch” with tea is that you have to age it for months, or even years to see results – if you want to try it out but don’t want to put your other wooden oak barrels out of commission, look at our oak barrels for sale here.
Item #3 – Aged Balsamic Vinegar
You know those things that you can use on everything, like salt and olive oil? Balsamic vinegar is one of those things.
Italians are known for waiting – just look at how long wine is aged for. Aged balsamic vinegar has a much more defined taste than regular, supermarket balsamic vinegar does, but there’s a catch – it costs an arm and a leg. A single bottle that’s been aged for years can run you over $30, so if you want to consistently have this taste but not have it eat away at your bank account, you have to do it yourself.
Aging balsamic vinegar is a long process – we recommend leaving it for a year or more. Get a separate barrel for it – we have plenty of oak barrels for sale here. Who knows, if the end result is good enough, you might even be able to start selling your own and cash in on everyone who’s too lazy to age it.
Item #4 – Barrel Aged Maple Syrup
Breakfast lovers rejoice – maple syrup is last on the list, but not least. Far from it, actually. Aged maple syrup is a sought after condiment because pancake lovers know that the pancakes are only good as the syrup on top of them.
When you’re aging maple syrup, it’s worth doing some digging online for those who sell natural syrups. Usually, they’re small, local businesses. Aging a store bought brand won’t be terrible, but you’ll get better results with something a little bit more natural – simple as that.
The downside? Maple syrup is especially sticky. After you age it, prepare yourself physically and mentally for the barrel cleaning of a lifetime.
We’ve given you some ideas on what to use your barrels for if you’re already seeing results with aged alcohol. You can also explore online into the more obscure aged items, like vanilla. We kept this list general so that it’d appeal to a wide range of wooden barrel users.
As always, make sure that you’re taking proper care of your barrels while trying to age these food items – the last thing you want to do is clean up a pool of maple syrup off of your floor. Check in frequently to see how the aging process is coming along, and don’t be afraid to bottle it up if it tastes good.
Good luck, and if you need aged oak barrels for these specific food items, click here to check out our wooden barrels for sale.
Be sure to also check out our recipe section if you’re looking for some more ideas.
Those who prefer beer will have to go through the meticulous process of home-brewing, but for those of you who prefer a stronger taste, you’re in luck – creating your own flavor of spirits in your charred oak barrels is a relatively simple process. To start, you’ll need to get a wooden barrel, which you can find on our oak barrels for sale page.
Once you have it, the first step is curing your barrel. As aging liquor is a lengthy process, you want to make sure that everything is perfect before the process begins. Curing your barrel removes all of the debris from it, and also ensures that your product won’t be contaminated by anything that’s already absorbed into the wood. For complete instructions on how to cure your barrel – click here.
Before you move to step two, you have to determine what type of flavored alcohol you want to make, like whiskey or vodka.
You’re going to have to get an unflavored/flavorless Vodka or grain alcohol if you are making; bourbon, whiskey, tequila, or scotch.
If you want to make Rum, you’ll want to start with unflavored/flavorless clear Rum. The second step is purchasing this base and having it on hand.
If choosing Brandy, you’ll want to start with a brandy liquor base
The second step is purchasing this base and having it on hand.
Step three is determining what type of essence you want to use. Just like how you see a slew of different flavors on liquor store shelves, there are a slew of different essences for you to pick from. The essence you choose will ultimately determine what the final product of your aging process tastes like. Shop for different type of essence here.
Next, assuming you have already cured your wooden oak barrel, step four is getting to work. You’re going to fill your barrel with the essence and the base alcohol. Usually, essence manufacturers follow the guideline of one bottle of essence per liter of base alcohol, but always read the label – putting in too much or too little essence will result in a less than desirable final product.
Once they’re both in, move to step five. It’s time to seal your wooden barrel up and play the waiting game. We recommend that you wait two to three weeks before checking on its progress, as the essence needs time to seep into the base alcohol.
After a reasonable amount of time, step six is opening up the barrel and sampling your product. It’s not always going to be perfect the first time – you may added too little essence or not let it sit for long enough. If the taste is too strong from the essence, then sorry – there’s no way to remove essence. You’ll have to try again. But if it’s not flavorful enough for your tastes, you can add more essence and repeat the process. If the flavor is fine but you think it could use some more time to age, seal it back up and repeat step five.
Once your pallet is happy, step seven is bottling it up and enjoying your creation!
Important things to note:
- You must cure your barrel in between each separate batch to prevent different base alcohols and essences from contaminating the next batch
- We recommend sampling your product when your pallet is neutral – not after a meal of spicy food or anything of that nature
- Pick a few different flavors of essence and try them all – even if you like a certain flavor that’s storebought, there are far more flavors of essence available than just that
Just like you wash clothing before wearing it, you need to do a few things before starting the aging process in your barrel. With the steps below, you will ensure that your barrel is 100% clean and that the outcome of the aging is flawless.
First, rinse out your barrel three to five times with water. This will ensure that any wood debris (if any) is cleaned out completely.
Insert the spigot in the front of the barrel. Tighten it securely by hand.
Fill your barrel with scolding hot water until it is completely full. You may experience some leaking – that’s okay. Keep it full until all leaking ceases. This can be almost instant, or it can take up to seven days, depending on your particular barrel.
You’re all set to begin aging. You have cleaned the barrel, and you have made the wood absorb water instead of your alcohol. (If you hadn’t completed step 3, then your first batch would be contaminated.)
Repeat the process if you plan on aging different kinds of spirits so that the previous spirit that’s been absorbed into the wood doesn’t mix with the new spirit that you’re trying to age.
Help! My barrel is still leaking!
Although our barrels are the best available, everything breaks eventually. With barrels, you may eventually run into the problem of it leaking where the barrel head or the face of the barrel meets the staves. This problem is easily resolved with barrel wax, a necessary component to anyone getting into aging.
Simply take a liberal amount of barrel wax (on a standard container, that would be about ¼ of it) and apply it to the leak. You may have to go over the leak two or three times, depending on how large it is. Once you’re done, let it sit while you wash your hands, and then double check to make sure the leak is fixed afterwards. Easy!