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Fruit Caviar: How Do They Do It?

On another, Boston, thread we started talking about these amazing 'fruit caviar' bubbles that are a topping option for a number of frozen yoghurt shops. Luther referred to them as
"alginate/calcium reagents used to make the "fruit caviar" topping". Can anyone explain in layman's terms how these bubbles work?( I am absolutely chemistry-challenged but am fascinated by these things.) Thanks much!

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  1. Thats kind of the simplest explanation you can give for it. You mix sodium alginate into fruit juice and then drop it into a calcium chloride solution and it creates the spheres. The scientific reason as to why it happens is far more complicated.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDIsfQ...

      1. re: Luther

        His recipe collection with many "modern" recipes including "fruit caviar" is also highly recommended:

        http://cdn.khymos.org/wp-content/2009...

      2. Alginate is a seaweed-based thickener. In a ph-appropriate mixture (slightly acidic) the alginate-juice mixture reacts with the calcium chloride bath to create a gel. Depending on the size of the drops and the length of time it sits in the bath the drop can either be liquid inside or gel all the way through.

        1. If this interests you there's a wonderful series of video lectures by a number of chefs who visited Harvard last year to explain the science behind their methodology:

          http://itunes.apple.com/itunes-u/scie...

          #8 is directly on-topic but they are all fascinating.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ferret

            Thanks for this great link! LOVE things like this. Now if only my copies of modernist cuisine would arrive ><

            1. re: ferret

              man o man, ferret, you are one HOT TICKET!

              And all of you, what very helpful explanations; I am really delighted to learn about this! thanks so much.

              p.s. do yall have any idea when and where these fruit caviar were invented ?

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                The series is very entertaining. The first 10-15 minutes covers the scientific principles and can be skipped if you like. For me, the second episode with Joan Roca was exceptionally good, despite the poor translator. Hats off to Harvard for putting together such a great series.

              2. re: ferret

                Thank you for posting this! What a great resource.

              3. Maybe they buy it: http://www.fruitcaviar.de/

                There is another, perhaps more accessible method which uses agar agar as the thickener, and the caviar mixture is dropped into chilled oil. Agar has a high melting point, so spherifies quickly once in the cold oil. Agar caviar is solid rather than potentially liquid inside like the alginate version.

                5 Replies
                1. re: babette feasts

                  well, that is pretty darn fun! thanks much for the link. there must be a U.S. producer too because the flavors i've seen in CA and here in MA are not this german producer's flavors. Gonna seek further!

                  1. re: babette feasts

                    making fruit caviar is actually VERY easy, All you need is a digital scale, a syringe and the chemicals which can be bought from amazon.

                    1. re: twyst

                      what great news! maybe i could find some chemistry inclined friends and have a fruit caviar making party!

                        1. re: ferret

                          TOOOOOO much!!!!!! if i order, are you comin over to play? : - )
                          <jumping up and down like 5 year old>

                  2. If you want to make these I suggest ordering your product from a website called Will Powder. All powders are not created equal. Calcium chloride though has a funky after taste, I would suggest subbing for calcium lactate at a 5% ratio to your alginate product. Also, I must interject with the referral to these items as 'chemicals' they are often from natural sources such as seaweed and the common misconception is that these powders are bad for you, when in fact they are not and used in many foods already without your knowledge. You need a digital scale, your juice, the hydrocolloids, a fine mesh or cocktail strainer and instead of a syringe, just use a squeeze bottle, it works better and faster. The key is properly hydration of the alginate, you can't just dump it in and stir and post calcium bath rinse.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: dontcallmethefword

                      wow i wish you lived next door!thanks much for the great tips.
                      had to send you this, per your moniker!:

                      from the boston globe(Tales from the City) sunday 5/15 /11:
                      "My parents and I were baby-sitting my sister’s children. As we sat down to lunch, my 4-year-old niece asked for a glass of milk. “What do you say?” my mother replied. “You gotta say the P-word,” her 7-year-old brother chimed in. “Please,” she said, and got her glass of milk. Her big brother continued, “Now you gotta say the F-word.” There was silence as my parents and I exchanged startled looks and my niece looked puzzled. “Fank you!” my nephew finished.

                      -Joan O’Brien / Amherst, New Hampshire

                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        Ha! Nice. Let me know how it goes with the fruit caviar. you can actually do more than just juice with the technique as well.

                        1. re: dontcallmethefword

                          I can't tell you how great it feels that every time i see your name in a 'recent posts' spot- i chuckle. i have a similar experience with a still active Boston board thread titled
                          "Three Shwarmas and a Gyro walk into a bar... ". Love it!

                    2. I feel the need to opine that fruit caviar, flavored foams and all that molecular gastronomy stuff is a bunch of hooey.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: pdxgastro

                        Okay. Why? What was the experience with it that turned you off to the techniques? I think that if you jump in a thread to call "hooey", you should at least give a reason why.

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            If your going to try make sure you look up reverse spherefication , as sometimes with higher calcium items you do the reverse. Have fun

                            1. re: celeryroot

                              i continue to be amazed by the knowledge of the CHs on this thread!

                              1. re: celeryroot

                                For sure! The higher calcium level in olives allows you to do a reverse. If you find good olives and make a puree with some of the juice, strain through a cheese cloth to filter out bits and you can make a large sphere. You basically can make an olive shape that when you bite into it releases the puree or juice. With this you definitely want to use calcium lactate instead of chloride. I actually make a dirty martini this way, after I make the olive spheres I soak them in vermouth and then drop them into shaken vodka and you can pop the spheres adding as much olive juice to your drink as you wish.

                                1. re: dontcallmethefword

                                  Jose Andres is kind of famous for the olives, which he kind of took from ferran adria

                                  Here is the recipe Andres uses

                                  http://starchefs.com/events/studio/te...

                                  1. re: twyst

                                    YOU are great!! merci mille fois for that link!!

                                    1. re: twyst

                                      Yes he is, but to his credit he did train at el bulli. I still highly recommend switching out the calcium chloride for lactate. This article is from 2007 star chefs, when everyone was still riding the chloride wave. The recipe is a good one though. Olives is a good place to start if you are just beginning to get in to spherification. Also, if you have the alginate and calcium for your caviar balls, you can still use this recipe without having to buy xantham and sodium citrate. xantham is just a thickener for the juice and the citrate is just a form of acidity.

                                2. re: pdxgastro

                                  Allow me to introduce myself. I'm an incredibly adventurous eater. I appreciate all the thought and effort that goes into every type of cuisine. But M.G.? It's over the top! It's too too much. (for me) But you're right and I'm sorry. Every on this thread loves it. So I'm bowing out and leaving y'all to it.

                                3. One word: COOL. I want to make them! I haven't encountered these before, must try!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: BelovedofIsis

                                    per your moniker, i'm figuring you must be in cal., but if you're near boston, come on over!i am definitely going to need some handholding on this one, when i'm brave enough.

                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                      Lol I was born in Boston! However I'm located in England right now, how bout you come out here, nice quiet country kitchen is the best kind to experiment in! ;)

                                  2. Some 30 years ago, there was a children's candy/snack from Asia that consisted of two different kinds of liquids. You drip the coloured liquid into the relatively clear liquid, and the coloured liquid would set immediately to form "caviar". Then you are supposed to drink up. I am quite sure that was based on the same phenomenon!

                                    I wish I could find a picture or at least some information on it. I cannot even remember what packaging it came in, except that I thought it was quite cool.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: vil

                                      no kidding! how great!! did you see it in asia or the u.s.?

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                        I came across it where I grew up, in Asia. I am actually a bit surprised that there is so little mentioning of it on the Web, and mostly only from those who had been asking if anyone else remembered about it.

                                      2. re: vil

                                        It's called Popin' Cookin'. here's a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr-qew...

                                        Funny. I just ordered a couple of these for the next hydrocolloids demo we're doing.

                                        1. re: dontcallmethefword

                                          don't>> can you hear me cackling all the way down there?this is absolutely hysterical and i am going to play it every time i need to squeal with delight!!

                                          now that i see this, i am soo going to do this eventually. so easy. can't thank you enough. That textured toro is a HOOT.

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                            When I saw it , I flipped out. I was laughing and amazed at the "home application" of hydrocolloids for kids. I tracked it down and ordered three of them.

                                              1. re: celeryroot

                                                super thank you! i've ordered a few, to get my feet wet and giggle doing it; then i'll go the real science route!

                                          2. re: dontcallmethefword

                                            Not exactly the same thing (because the one I had was made in Taiwan, I think) but this one is even better, and so much more elaborate! I'm going to order it for myself and for the little one at home.

                                            By the way, the one I had was called Di-di-le in Chinese.

                                        2. Just procured the chemicals needed to do this. Planning to make pomegranate bubbles to garnish an eggplant dish in lieu of pomegranate seeds,which I can't get right now.

                                          13 Replies
                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            Sounds like a great application! Good luck and let us know hoe it works out for you!

                                              1. re: celeryroot

                                                Thank you so much! Very useful information (and a great-sounding recipe).

                                                  1. re: celeryroot

                                                    Yeah, try to avoid that route, if possible.

                                                1. re: celeryroot

                                                  i LOVE hot tickets; boy do they liven up life!! :-)

                                                2. re: pikawicca

                                                  We never got an update, how was your first adventure in spherification?

                                                  1. re: twyst

                                                    have i told you that in summer, I get rather ADDish? We own a mini arboretum/garden that we keep open to the public 24/7 , and NOW is the season to plant 15 new japanese maples and hundreds of other new plants......... ..So, I ordered online the hysterical 'sushi kit' linked above, but am saving it for some other time. whew!
                                                    www.cottonarboretum.com/

                                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                      I've been driving past your home for over a decade, wondering, wondering-- it is beautiful!! Thank you!

                                                      1. re: sqboo

                                                        wow, that's great! it's free and open 24/7 . no need to call or email, just come whenever you want. entry is in the driveway. hope you'll stop by and explore; i know you'll be surprised back there!

                                                    2. re: twyst

                                                      Had to play around some with the timing, but ended up with lovely little pomegranate spheres. "Modernist Cuisine" has a very helpful section on spherification.

                                                      Sorry, this is in reply to twyst.

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        I'm just getting into the third book, haven't gotten to that chapter yet! I think that stuff is in book 4 right?