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Fine soups, creams and sauces – without the bothersome bits and pieces
Straining separates the solids from the liquid. This is useful for removing bay leaves and juniper berries from sauces, or berry seeds and leftover peel from cold dishes.
Although pureeing and straining both have a similar desired effect of forming a smooth consistency, the procedures are in fact very different. The main goal of pureeing is to make one homogenous mass out of the solids and liquids. This is often done with a soup broth and its vegetables, or with a fruit juice and its fruit pieces. An immersion blender will shred any of the larger chunks and blend everything together with the liquid.
Straining, on the other hand, removes any bits from the liquid. For example, when making a beef stock with bones, vegetables and herbs, once cooked, the mixture can be strained through a fine sieve or a cloth strainer, leaving just a clear liquid. In case you want a velvety fruit sauce without any of the annoying seeds, strain it through a normal sieve so that only the smaller pieces remain.
To rid a sauce of larger pieces like bay leaves or vegetable bits, simply run it through a sieve. For a very fine and clear liquid, it is best to pass the mixture through a fine cloth strainer or a cotton tea towel. The same rules apply when making your own jelly – make sure to filter the juice through a sieve to remove all the pieces of fruit.
If the sauce doesn’t need to be particularly fine or clear, a normal sieve should suffice. This method is ideal for things like tomatoes, apple sauce and berries, helping to remove larger chunks, skin and seeds. Simply use a spoon to push the mixture through the sieve. Pureeing the mixture beforehand may make things easier. For a creamy and smooth sauce, try leaving some of the vegetables in and pureeing them. The pureed vegetables will act as a bonding agent.
Tomato passata is, quite simply, strained tomatoes with all the seeds and skin removed. You can usually find it in a carton or tin in the supermarket, or the other option is to make it fresh at home. Simply slice the tomatoes into small pieces and cook them for a short period of time. It is possible to skin the tomatoes first but, because the mixture will pass through a sieve or a food mill at a later stage, there is very little need to do so. A food mill can also be useful for food products such as apple mousse or baby food. If you don’t regularly use the straining method, however, a simple sieve and spoon should suffice.
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