Eric Prum and Josh Williams, BFFs behind the new book Infuse, set up shop in Bushwick, but their partnership was forged down south where the UVA boys studied in the land of peaches and bourbon.
The lightbulb moment came when one of them inserted A into B.
“I combined the peaches and bourbon in mason jars and the result was pretty incredible,” remembers Josh, who was running a side catering company at the time of the infusion epiphany. Hearing him wax rhapsodic about that original elixir will make you want to move south too — or at least buy their book in time for to peach season.
Their idea would eventually bear fruit. After graduating, they took a few years working separately (Josh in food and design, Eric in product development) before coming together in 2012 to start W&P Design, a Bushwick-based food and beverage company that first found fame with the Mason Shaker (for making cocktails in jars; my husband owns one and yours probably does too) and now makes over 100 products, including the Mason Tap, a unique pour spout for the iconic jars.
Now add to that lineup their beautiful second book, Infuse, on how to make the original peach-bourbon, as well as master recipes for infusing all manner of oils, spirits and waters — plus over 50 ways to use those elixirs in the likes of jalapeno-spiked grapefruit water or pancakes with blueberry-infused maple syrup.
I caught up with Eric and Josh yesterday and naturally my first question was: What is it about mason jars?
Eric, who grew up with lots of the jars in what I picture as Tara, cited their excellent functionality — “they have both the metric and imperial measurement, and because they’re created for heat transfer and sealing, are much more durable than the majority of glass jars.” I liked learning that the jars are nearly bullet-proof (!) but I was asking more about what the jars mean in a cultural-studies way. I tried again, asking what they’ve come to represent in the American imagination, and Josh was off to the races.
“The cultural history behind the mason jar attracted me personally,” he said. “For the past hundred-plus years, mason jars have been used in the home to preserve and enjoy the harvest. There’s definitely a nostalgic element that pairs with the idea of crafting at home.”
Yep, that’s exactly what sent me and the rest of Park Slope into our canning craze 15 years ago. Since then I’ve fallen for many other DIY-or-die trends, from making kraut and to cold brew. So I asked Josh and Eric — why should infusing become the next kombucha?
“Because it’s incredibly easy to do and elevates your everyday cooking and drinking” said Josh. “Take our Calabrian chili oil. It’s literally 2 ingredients, and creates a hot sauce that can transform a simple pasta, or even delivery pizza, into something way better.”
No, they say. You can infuse in any vessel.
“People can DIY it using the tools in their kitchen,” says Eric, “but we try to create products that are the right tools, that we would want to use. But you can definitely hack it at home with whatever you have on hand.”
Here’s a great one to start with, perfect for, as Eric and Jason say, drinking your vegetables on a hot summer day.
Cucumber Mint Water
From Infuse by Eric Prum and Josh Williams
Makes 32 oz.
As much as we love the hot days of summer, it’s sometimes hard to escape that sticky feeling. Enter this cooling infusion. Lime, cucumber, and mint work together to create a refreshing sip that we keep in the fridge all summer long.
12 slices of cucumber
4 slices of lime
4 large sprigs of fresh mint
28 oz of water
- Combine the cucumber, lime, and mint in a 32 oz Mason jar. Muddle until lightly crushed.
- Add the water, seal, and shake for 30 seconds to combine.
- Serve over ice. The infusion will keep in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.