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Torchiettos and Fruit Presses: How They Work and What to Use Them For

Torchiettos and Fruit Presses: How They Work and What to Use Them For

 

Used for pressing everything from eggplants to fruits and vegetables, torchiettos (also commonly known as fruit or vegetable presses) are a versatile tool for a range of food prep. This week we cover what torchiettos are, how they work, and some of our favourite vegetable press uses!


Torchiettos and Fruit and Vegetable Presses:
What are they and how do they work?
 

 

Also known as a fruit or vegetable press, the torchietto is a traditionally Italian tool used to separate solids from liquids - whether you want to retain either the extracted liquid, the pressed and drained solid, or both. The torchiettos we carry here at Consiglios are sourced straight from Italy, and feature either a two-pillar aluminum frame, or three-pillar steel construction for more strength, depending on what you are planning to press. These pillars suspend a crank arm with a pressing plate over the “body” of the press - a perforated basket set inside a solid chamber with a small drain pipe. When cranked down, the pressing plate exerts an even, controlled pressure on the contents of the basket, forcing the liquids out of the solid mass and by extension out of the drain pipe. What’s left? The extracted liquid in one container, and dried pulp or pieces in the press’s basket.

 

 

Torchietto Uses and Functions

Simple in its premise, the torchietto really shines once you start to make connections about the possibilities a press provides. Below are some of our favourite ways to use a torchietto.

Eggplant Press:

One of our favourite torchietto uses here at Consiglio’s is for pressing eggplant - our Chef Angela Consiglio even recalls seeing her Nonna using one to press eggplant for preserving when she was young.

Why press eggplant? Many eggplants have an apparent bitterness to them. Though this bitterness varies in strength between the different types of eggplant, it can be easily extracted by salting, pressing, then rinsing your eggplant slices before preparing - the salt will draw out the eggplants natural bitter fluid so that it can be fully extracted by the torchietto. Once pressed, rinse the eggplant slices to remove the salt and your eggplant is now ready to preserve or prepare in your favourite dish - my current favourite is to give the slices a light rub with some olive oil and toss them straight on the grill!

Olive Press:

Another traditionally Italian use for torchiettos is for crushing olives - not necessarily to extract olive oil, but to crack and prepare the olives for curing and brining. Similar with eggplant, pressing and cracking the flesh of the olives allows for their natural bitterness to be extracted during the water-curing stage. When using a torchietto as an olive press, it’s important to go slowly and exercise caution as the olive’s hard pit can damage the press if excessive force is used.

 

 

Fruit Press:

One of my personal favourite uses for the torchietto is to use it as a fruit press - specifically to press berries. I was introduced to the amazing world of berry and fruit syrups a couple years ago through longtime family friends of my girlfriend when a trip out to her homeland of Vancouver Island for a visit saw her returning home with gifts of berry syrups… which we then (naturally) proceeded to use on and in absolutely everything.

On pancakes, in salad dressings, as a marinade, in barbeque sauces and in the most stunning cocktails, berry syrups became a quick staple in our house. Luckily for me, they are also incredibly easy to make: pick fresh berries (or pick some up locally at your farmers market), press to extract the delicious berry juice, prepare with your favourite recipe (some use pectin, sugar or both) and can in a hot water bath. My current favourite berry syrup? Blueberry, served over a scoop of vanilla coconut icecream!

Wine Press:

Similar to pressing berries to make syrups, torchiettos can also be used in homebrewing to make your own wines and fruit wines, and even fruit beers - I recently had a homemade blackberry wheat beer that almost single handedly inspired me to take up homebrewing again! As with the berry syrups above, pressing fruit for homebrewing is as easy as putting the fresh berries into the torchietto basket and slowly using the crank arm to exert pressure on the fruit to extract its delicious liquid - just keep in mind that harder fruits will likely need to crushed or masticated prior to pressing!

Cider Press:

Whether you enjoy fresh apple cider in the fall served warm with a touch of cinnamon, or brew your own hard cider, a torchietto functions well as a home cider press. Before pressing it’s important to grind or process your apples to get an optimal extraction and to ensure you don’t damage your torchietto - my favourite way to process apples or pears prior to pressing is to give them a quick spin in the food process to help break them up! Given the density and texture of apples, we typically recommend the sturdier professional torchietto for this job.

 

 

Tincture Press, Extractions and Infusions:

Ranging in function from use in homeopathy to creating flavourful extracts, tinctures, extractions and infusions are a great way to distill concentrate from herbs and other plant matter. Tinctures specifically use high-proof alcohol as a solvent, while extracts can use a range of bases such as vinegar, water or glycerine. To make your tincture or extract, bruise or crush your herb, flower or plant matter of choice (a mortar and pestle works well for this), place in a mason jar, fully cover with your solvent and store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight for as long as the recipe you are using calls for. After the rest period, the plant matter and now-infused liquid can be poured into a torchietto lined with cheesecloth - by pressing instead of simply draining, you’ll ensure the best possible extraction from the plant matter you are working with.

Aside from traditional tinctures and extracts, a torchietto is a great way to “get the most” out of many infusions, and makes the straining process quick, easy and mess free. A couple years ago, I got into spicing my own (store-bought) whiskey - I would simply pick up a bar-rail level whiskey and infuse it with a combination of orange zest and freshly ground spices, to absolutely great effect. The only arduous part was straining my now spiced whisky once the infusion had reached my desired flavour - there would always be a volume of liquid “trapped” in the infusing solids that I would have to free by hand-squeezing through cheesecloth. With a torchietto, however, this final squeezing process is a breeze!

Nut Milk Press:

If you’re lactose intolerant or restricted from dairy for either ethical, medical or dietary reasons, nut milks such as almond, coconut and cashew milk make an incredible dairy substitute. Although many store-bought nut milks are costly and come packaged with a slew of preserving, sweetening and thickening agents, the good news is that these milks are easy and affordable to make at home.

Many nut milk recipes such as almond and cashew milk begin by soaking the nuts in water for twelve hours or so before processing them in a blender. Once processed, the nut pulp needs to be either strained or pressed - by running the pulp through a torchietto lined with cheesecloth you can extract your nut milk quickly and easily. As an added bonus, the nut pulp left over after pressing can be dried, ground, and used as a nut flour in your favourite baking recipe.


Cheese Press:

When making your own cheese at home, it’s important to press the cheese to expel the whey and shape the curd. Though there are a range of specific cheese presses available, many function similarly (if not identically) to a torchietto - the cheese is placed in a perforated container, with pressure then being applied from the top by either a weight or hand-crank system so that the whey can be pressed out through the holes in the basket.


Tofu Press:

One of the most common mistakes in cooking with tofu is not pressing it prior to use! Tofu absorbs a large amount of the water it is stored in - something that is often the root of loose texture or bland flavour many complain of when it comes to tofu. The solution? Press that water out! As with the cheese presses above, there are presses available on the market specifically for this function - but, given the choice, I’d always rather making the most of a multi-use kitchen tool than collect a bunch of single-use-only mechanisms. To press tofu in a torchietto, simply put your tofu of choice in the basket, and use the handle to crank the pressing plate down until it starts to exert pressure on the tofu, causing it to drained. Once pressed, you can replace the bland water previously occupying the tofu with a flavourful marinade, or simply season and prepare the tofu to your liking.


Small, Medium, and Large: Torchietto Dimensions

 


Standard Torchietto/
Fruit and Vegetable Press

Professional Torchietto/
Fruit and Vegetable Press

Features:

  • Two aluminum support pillars
  • Stainless steel basket
  • Rubberized ring on base to protect work surfaces
  • Made in Italy

Features:

  • Three support pillars for increased durability and pressing strength
  • Internal basket, shaft, and vertical supports made of stainless steel
  • Base can be directly mounted to work surface for greater stability
  • Made in Italy

Sizes:

  • Small: 12.5 cm diameter, 1.89L (5”/ 2 qt)
  • Medium: 15.25 cm diameter, 2.84L (6”/ 3qt)
  • Large: 20.3 cm diameter, 4.73L (8”/ 5qt)

Sizes:

  • Small: 12.5 cm diameter, 1.89L (5”/ 2 qt)
  • Medium: 15.25 cm diameter, 2.84L (6”/ 3qt)
  • Large: 20.3 cm diameter, 4.73L (8”/ 5qt)

 

 



What are your favourite uses for a torchietto or fruit/vegetable press? Share in the comments below!
 

Enjoy our Torchiettos and Fruit Presses: How They Work and What to Use Them For article? 

 

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