For Christmas this year, my parents gave me two molecular gastronomy kits: One for alcohol and one for food. To be honest, most of the chemicals in the kits overlap considerably, but the recipe DVD included is specific for the kit. One Sunday, Tom blurted out that we should attempt to use the alcohol kit to make some booze. And hey, it was a Sunday, so why not?
We opted for the spherification recipes. There were two ways to do it. The recipes to make the caviar (small balls) had you add the sodium alginate to the liquid you were spherifying and make a calcium lactate bath. The larger balls added the calcium lactate to the liquid and use a sodium alginate bath.
For the larger balls, we decided to make some pomegranate juice balls and some lime juice balls. The basic procedure is to add the calcium lactate to the juice, blend it with a hand blender, pour the juice into a mold and freeze the juice in the mold until they were easy to handle. That sounded fairly easy, so we did the pomegranate juice (with a few pomegranate seeds frozen inside for good measure) first, then while it was freezing, we moved onto the caviar.
The caviar balls were to make a fancy Gin and Tonic. You took the tonic and mixed it with blue curacao, added the sodium alginate, blended with a hand blender and dropped it by a pipette into the calcium lactate bath. The blue curacao gives it a nice blue color, but we couldn’t find any, so we opted for some green melon liqueur and some raspberry liqueur to make green caviar and red caviar. We also left some with just tonic to give some comparison. It’s a pretty tedious process. There’s a lot of pipetting to get a small amount of balls. But we stuck to it. The recipe then called for the tonic balls to be added to gin and a slice of lime. Then drink.
The caviar didn’t work so well. First blending the tonic water with the sodium alginate caused a ton of bubbles. It made it hard to pipette. I think it might be better to make the tonic a bit more flat before attempting to make at home. The liqueur didn’t really do much either. They also got quite gelified, so they were like little spheres of tonic gel. It also is incredibly strong to drink straight gin with a few tonic balls, so we ended up adding tonic to the drink as well. Overall, while it makes a cool effect, I think the smaller balls might be better left to the food preparation.
Once we had some frozen pomegranate juice, we put the lime juice with the calcium lactate in the freezer. We attempted to put a few of the frozen juice balls in the sodium alginate. It seemed to work okay, but if one burst, the bath really started gelling up. It wasn’t pleasant. The bath was also incredibly viscous so it was hard to handle the balls. Turns out later after looking things up online that you should use distilled water when making the sodium alginate bath. If there’s calcium in the water (and in London, there’s a lot of it), it really makes a viscous bath that is hard to deal with. However, we did manage to get a few pomegranate balls out and had a couple of delicious pomegranate martinis with them.
The lime balls worked out a bit easier. I’m not sure if there’s something in the pomegranate juice, or what, but we got several really nice lime balls that Tom put into margaritas. The only issue is they sit quite low in the glass so you had to pick them out and burst them in your mouth every once in awhile during the drinking so you wouldn’t end up with them all at the bottom.
Turns out though, that the lime balls work great for shots. Put them in the bottom of a tequila shot and you have your lime already for you at the end. It may be my new favorite way to do the shots. If you mix some water, salt and soy lecithin, you can also make a salt foam to put on top which takes care of the salt. These shots are definitely going to make an appearance at our next party. The nice thing is that you can make up the frozen lime juice early and the balls seem to stay intact for quite awhile soaking in a water bath after they’ve been spherified, so you can make them in batches and not worry too much.