Monday, August 15, 2011

Mint Juleps with Mint "Caviar"




The shrimp and grits I made with Courtney wouldn't be complete without a nice Southern drink that makes you wish you were sipping it on your back porch during a hot summer's night.

Mint Juleps with Mint "Caviar"
Servings: 1
Time: 2 minutes

4 fresh mint sprigs
1 shot of bourbon
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water
Mint "caviar" (see below)
Ice

  1. Dissolve the powdered sugar in water then add and muddle mint leaves.
  2. Pour in the shot of bourbon and ice.
  3. Spoon in the "caviar".
The only way I could have enjoyed this drink more was if I was sitting at the Kentucky Derby in a white suit stroking my giant white mustache (ok, I've never seen anyone in the South actually do that, but it seems like it'd be awesome).

Mint "Caviar"
Science!
Time: 10 minutes

200 mL low calcium water (not from tap)
Fresh mint
1.6 g sodium alginate
2 drops Green food coloring
250 mL water
1.3 g calcium chloride

  1. Prepare the calcium bath by mixing 250 mL water with the calcium chloride. Shake to dissolve and refrigerate it.
  2. Boil the fresh mint in the low calcium water for about 10 minutes until the water changes color.
  3. Mix the mint water, food coloring and sodium alginate in a blender until all the alginate has been incorporated.
  4. Using a syringe, slowly drop the mint mixture into the calcium bath.
  5. Collect the spheres in a food strainer and rinse with low calcium water.
They only taste a little bit like toothpaste!
This mint "caviar" is a type of spherification, which is one of the pillars of molecular gastronomy. The ingredients might be chemicals, but don't worry, they're safe for consumption. You can find them at specialty stores like Surfa's or order them on Amazon (for much cheaper). 

Basically, a spherification is a thin gel encapsulating a liquid. Think of them kind of like a really neat gusher fruit snack. When the negatively charged alginate bond with the positively charged calcium ions in the water, the various polymers of alginate are pulled closer together to form a dense gel network. 

List of things to NEVER do again: look up "gushers" on google image search.
The reverse of this process can also be done to give large "ravioli" like spheres. For this to work, you enrich your liquid with calcium and then dip it in an alginate bath. Both of these techniques can be tricky and take a lot of practice. pH plays a large role, so not all juices will form spheres on their own.

Thus endeth the science lesson. Feel free to wake up now, wipe the drool off your desk and treat yourself to a mint julep.

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