To let food get older under controlled conditions in order to improve flavor or texture or both. 1. Aged meat has been stored 3 to 6 weeks at an optimal temperature of 34°F to 38°F and in low humidity. During this time it undergoes an enzymatic change that intensifies flavor, deepens color and tenderizes by softening some of the connective tissue. The longer meat is aged, the more quickly it will cook. The cryovac method of aging involves vacuum packing the meat with a vapor- and moistureproof film so the so-called aging takes place in transit from slaughterhouse to the consumer's home. 2. Aging cheese refers to storing it in a temperature-controlled area until it develops the desired texture and flavor. See ripening for more information. 3. Aging spirits and wines produces a smoother, more complex, and less harsh and tannic (see tannin) result. Whiskeys, cognacs, armagnacs, as well as some better brandies and rums, all benefit from aging, with many spirits governed by laws regarding minimum aging periods. Spirits that aren't aged include gin, vodka, neutral spirits and certain brandies and rums. Aging is also beneficial to most fine red and white wines, whereas rosé, light red wines and most whites are at their best soon after bottling and don't require further aging.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.