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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Macerate a verb meaning to soften by steeping in a liquid, either cold or hot. It occurs most often, in a culinary context, when fruit is to be softened by steeping it in spirits. It has occasionally been used of steeping foods in brine.

The softening effect can be achieved in various ways. To macerate a hard dried substance in water will cause it to absorb water and swell and become softer. Or the softening effect of the liquid may be achieved by its removing gummy substances which cement cells together. Equally, there may be chemical processes at work, if the liquid is acid or alkaline; or the softening can result from the liquid activating micro-organisms or enzymes already present in the substance.