Alright, those of you with filter-equipped water pitchers in your fridges, can you please raise your hand? Those of you who have filtration systems in your homes, be they cartridge units for your sinks (Brita, Zero Water, 3M, PUR) or centralized reverse osmosis systems, please raise your hand? Those of you who buy bottled water? Those of you who think drinking tap water is just plain fine?
Cool, now that everyone has raised their hands, foodiePrints was issued a Mavea Elemaris XL “Water Filtration Container” to test with our cooking. Mavea’s marketing company, Brill Communications, reasoned home cooks could benefit from cooking with filtered water, part of “a healthy lifestyle.”
Before opening the boxed pitcher we were sent, I asked Facebook about water filters and food. The very knowledgeable Matt Kayahara of Kayahara.ca made the argument that much of what makes water taste funny, dissolved substances like chlorine or flouride, leaches out, especially when boiled. Susan Murphy, one of Ottawa’s social media luminaries, pointed out our city has pretty good tasting water already.
Indeed, even the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CHMC) published a FAQ to the effect, so long as your municipality or utility supplies your drinking water, it is likely you do not “need” a water filter. Municipal water, like Ottawa’s, is heavily regulated to meet strict health and aesthetic requirements. If you filter municipal water, the additional treatment is purely aesthetic.
Now, should your home be much older or your utility employs lead pipes, your water may contain lead. This, you should test for and purchase the required equipment to treat the water.
Mavea’s filter cartridges employ a combination of activated carbon (AC) and resin filtration. According to the CHMC, AC filtration is effective in removing organic contaminants: hydrogen sulphide, mercury, copper, and chlorine. Resin filtration removes heavy metals, some of which forms limescale. Together, the filter cartridge works to reduce substances that affect the odour and flavour of water.
A Mavea Elemaris XL pitcher retails for $34.99 CAD at Sears and The Bay. Filters retail for under $15 for a package of three. What is novel about Mavea is its recycling program. You can mail spent cartridges to them, postage paid, which they recycle.
As someone who has always read that stocks should be made with filtered water, I looked for a recipe that would fit the season and involve boiling the water. With the weather slowly heating up (and then cooling unseasonably thereafter), I chose a lemonade sweetened with a simple syrup recipe from The Food Network website.
But first, how does the Mavea filtered water compare to tap water? Using water from the kitchen faucet in our condominium, neither I nor my better half, Jenn, could tell the difference in blind taste tests, be they freshly filtered cold, freshly filtered lukewarm, or chilled samples. Even when we let water sit to acclimatize to room temperature, one batch in the plastic Mavea pitcher and another in a plastic water jug, we could not taste any difference. We followed the instructions that came with the jug very carefully, submerging the filter in water first and filtering two full batches before using the pitcher to test with. The filter-equipped pitcher produced no better tasting water than what comes out of our tap.
To test how the filtered water performed, “cooked”, I made two half batches of “lemonade” and “lemongrass simple syrup”, one with filtered water and one with tap water. When assembled, the filtered water lemongrass lemonade tasted no different from the tap water lemon grass lemonade. Filtered water did not improve the lemonade’s flavour. Filtered water did not improve infusing lemongrass flavour into the simple syrup.
Now, if you don’t plan on testing a water-filter equipped pitcher, to make a whole batch of lemongrass simple syrup, place a cup of water, a cup of sugar, and 4 stalks worth of lemongrass in a pot. Bring the mixture to a boil at medium-heat. Then, lower the heat and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat, add the zest of five lemons, cover, and leave the mixture to steep for at least 15 minutes. When cool, strain the syrup into a jar or another lidded container and chill in the fridge.
To ensure maximum lemongrass flavour, I removed the root ends and thick green tip portions. What remained of the lemongrass stalks, I chopped into four pieces and bruised in a mortar and pestle. The same can be accomplished, carefully, with the back of a cleaver and a cutting board.
To make the lemonade portion, take the juice of the now naked lemons and mix it with 2 cups of cold water.
To make the lemongrass lemonade, mix the syrup and lemonade together. Now, for the most important part, taste the mixture. Dilute to desired sweetness and tartness with more water. Garnish and serve.
After testing the lemonade, we came to the unscientific conclusion that aesthetics of Ottawa tap water do not benefit from filtering.
Still, with two batches of lemongrass lemonade, we figured a picnic was in order. Finger sandwiches anyone?
What You’ll Need:
- pre-sliced white bread for however many sandwiches you want (clearly, 2 slices each)
- ripe avocado to add to those sandwiches, two hass avocados provide enough slices for 3 sandwiches
- smoked salmon, again enough for however many sandwiches you want
- butter or mayonnaise
- squeezes of lemon (optional)
- If using butter, place the butter on the counter to soften at room temperature.
- Slice the crusts off your bread and place them in a freezer bag. Freeze the crusts for bread crumbs later.
- Slice your cucumber with a mandolin, a v-slicer, or a really sharp knife.
- Hull and slice your avocados.
- Spread softened butter or mayonnaise on one side of the bread.
- Assemble your sandwiches, cucumber on the butter or mayonnaise slice. Then add smoked salmon and finish with avocado and unbuttered or unmayonnaised slice of bread.
- Serve immediately as the bread will go stale very quickly.