We’ve all been instructed to “macerate” something in the middle of a recipe, likely one of the fruity persuasion. If you had no clue what you were being told to do, you’re not alone. Here’s what it means: When your recipe says to macerate, it's simply telling you to soak chopped fruit, probably some kind of berry, in a mixture of sugar and liquid—hopefully a zingy citrus juice. Does it annoy you to know that the recipe mostly could have just said “soak” instead of macerate to yield more or less the same results? Yes, yes it does, but let’s not attack the recipe writers. Let’s instead dive into the meaning of the term. And while we’re at it, learn how to macerate.

Macerate technically means to soften some kind of solid food by soaking it in liquid, imparting the flavor of the liquid into the solid as it softens. While this description sounds oddly similar to marinating, maceration is specific to fruit, while marinating is for protein or vegetables. 

Sometimes a recipe may tell you to mix fruit with sugar and set the mixture aside to macerate. This is still technically macerating, as sugar helps draw out the water within the fruit, effectively creating a macerating syrup as the juice mixes with the sugar. However, an acidic liquid like vinegar or citrus juice is often included in these fruit and sugar mixtures to move the macerating process along. 

Now you have this information, which is fine and good, but that’s not really why you’re reading a food website. You’re here to read about food so exciting it makes the back of your tongue spikey, mouth watering like a sprinkler. OK, so let’s do it.

First, know that the best way to enjoy macerated fruit, aside from straight out of the bowl, is to ladle it onto a biscuit with some kind of whipped dairy product (extra points if it’s a two-in-one, like whipped cream mixed with Greek yogurt or mascarpone), so locate those things first. 

Next, roughly chop 2 cups of your favorite fruit into a bowl. Strawberries are a classic macerating choice, but why not use peaches, blueberries, or apples? The following macerating formula gives a lot of options, so choose wisely. 

Start with sweet, and sprinkle the fruit with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Up next is acid: Pour in 2 tablespoons of vinegar (balsamic, champagne, or apple cider), or citrus juice (lemon, lime, blood orange, grapefruit, and so on). Add a splash of bourbon or spiced rum if you want. Finally, stir in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, like mint, basil, or thyme. Give the mixture a good toss, cover, and let it macerate for at least 25 minutes. After the initial soak, the mixture can be refrigerated and continue to macerate for up to 12 hours. Spoon the fruit over a warm biscuit and a dollop or five of whipped cream.