Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Acidity


Fat Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

Definitely wine. Think about how much better a beef stew or braised lamb shank is with some red wine thrown in. Not only adds acidity but also depth of flavor.

I like the idea of hot sauce as an acidic addition, too---as in hot sauce sprinkled on a piece of fried chicken or some scrambled eggs. :wub:

I may be in Nashville but my heart's in Cornwall

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All this talk of acidic foods reminds me of a Roman banquet I cooked a few years ago. It seems that in Ancient Rome combining sweet and sour was important at table. One recipe we made was a marinade for boiled or fried vegetables, we served it with boiled carrots. It contains garlic, vinegar, passum*, garum**, fresh mint and pepper. The cooked vegetables are marinated in the sauce for 3-4 hours before serving.

*passum is raisin wine sort of similar to Amarone

**Garum is a very intense salty fish sauce. The closest modern ingredient is Thai fish sauce (Nuoc mam).

We enjoyed it, but it was quite intense and took a little getting used to.

purplechick

"No verse can give pleasure for long, nor last, that is written by

water drinkers." --Cratinus, 5th Century BCE, Athens

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My husband still reminisces about Vietnam, where no table is complete without a small dish of sliced chilis, limes, salt and pepper.

This reminds me of a soup I've been fiddling with for while. It's a pureed soup, as mentioned above, and I haven't been able to get it "just right" yet. I know it needs an acid, but I'm not sure just what. I've tried rice vinegar, and it's not quite right.

Basically, I saute a cubed sweet potato in a mix of dark and light miso, sesame oil, and Japanese leek; add some dashi and simmer until the potatoes are softened, then puree the lot and top with some more shredded leek and sesame oil. It's good, but it doesn't pop.

Suggestions?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd venture to say that one reason acidity is overlooked by the home cook is because cooks are afraid of what the acid might do . . . like curdle a diary or egg product. Also, there's that nasty change of color if the food item to which the acid is added is in a reactive pan or something like that.

Starkman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This reminds me of a soup I've been fiddling with for while. It's a pureed soup, as mentioned above, and I haven't been able to get it "just right" yet. I know it needs an acid, but I'm not sure just what. I've tried rice vinegar, and it's not quite right.

Basically, I saute a cubed sweet potato in a mix of dark and light miso, sesame oil, and Japanese leek; add some dashi and simmer until the potatoes are softened, then puree the lot and top with some more shredded leek and sesame oil. It's good, but it doesn't pop.

Suggestions?

I googled some random recipes, and lemon juice seems to be the most common acid added to sweet potato soup. Other recipes included sherry, yogurt, and/or sour cream. Bourbon and orange juice consort nicely with sweet potatoes, and tamarind might be interesting.

Bittman has a sweet potato soup recipe with curry powder and apricots, which sounds fun.

Please do report if any of these suggestions are helpful (or if they are disastrous, but that would be a different thread :wink: ).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This reminds me of a soup I've been fiddling with for while. It's a pureed soup, as mentioned above, and I haven't been able to get it "just right" yet. I know it needs an acid, but I'm not sure just what. I've tried rice vinegar, and it's not quite right.

Suggestions?

That soup has a lot of complex flavors going on already. One of my favorite acid ingredients right now is a simple ginger flavored vinegar I make. I heat some brown or regular rice vinegar, take off heat, add a little sugar or a jam like plum, a pinch of salt, and slices of ginger. Keep in jar in refrigerator. Best if allowed to ripen a day or more. The ginger smell is lovely and the taste really brightens things like the soup you mention. I use it with my kabocha soup that has King oysters in it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My husband still reminisces about Vietnam, where no table is complete without a small dish of sliced chilis, limes, salt and pepper.

This reminds me of a soup I've been fiddling with for while. It's a pureed soup, as mentioned above, and I haven't been able to get it "just right" yet. I know it needs an acid, but I'm not sure just what. I've tried rice vinegar, and it's not quite right.

Basically, I saute a cubed sweet potato in a mix of dark and light miso, sesame oil, and Japanese leek; add some dashi and simmer until the potatoes are softened, then puree the lot and top with some more shredded leek and sesame oil. It's good, but it doesn't pop.

Suggestions?

I'd try lime juice with this. You really need the sharper acidic notes to contrast with the soy/sesame. Using something like tamarind would add too much sweetness on top of the sweet potatoes. Ginger as mentioned above would, I suspect, make a complex soup even more complex; mind you the ginger vinegar sounds wonderful and I can think of a number of dishes it would be perfect in.

I'd also add some heat in the form of chilis -- but then I almost always say that :rolleyes:

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great topic, FatGuy. This discussion made me realize that learning to taste when something needs acid vastly improved my cooking. As someone suggested above, it's not really a skill you learn from following recipes, and it seems like many of us have stumbled across the power of acidity through trial and error and general experience.

The "aha!" moment for me was the first time I made hummus from scratch, and I forgot to add lemon juice. It just wasn't quite right--that flatness a bunch of you mentioned. Once I added the lemon, it was perfect. Tasting that difference helped me recognize when other dishes were missing acid.

The other great thing about acid, unlike salt or other seasonings, is you CAN add it at the end to "fix" a dish. If you forget to salt something at the beginning, you're pretty much screwed, but acid is much more forgiving. And if you add a bit too much of a volatile acid like vinegar or wine, just cook it a little longer and it mellows out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Words like sharp, bright, and tang are used to describe the effect of acid. What if there's too much, what if you need to raise the pH closer to neutral?

I've seen alkaline water for sale at the Asian grocer. I've got baking soda in the cupboard.

Is this an issue for cooks?

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Raising pH and correcting for too much acidity are not necessarily the same thing. You can reduce the impact of acidity by adding sugar, for example, though that won't be appropriate in every dish. Obviously, just like with salt, it's best to simply be judicious in the amount of acid you add.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wine as opposed to wine vinegar also adds an acidic element, surprised nobody mentioned it.

Actually....

Definitely wine.  Think about how much better a beef stew or braised lamb shank is with some red wine thrown in.  Not only adds acidity but also depth of flavor. 

I like the idea of hot sauce as an acidic addition, too---as in hot sauce sprinkled on a piece of fried chicken or some scrambled eggs.  :wub:

Plus, even earlier in the thread, the "Riesling Soup" story....

Christopher

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Words like sharp, bright, and tang are used to describe the effect of acid. What if there's too much, what if you need to raise the pH closer to neutral?

I've seen alkaline water for sale at the Asian grocer. I've got baking soda in the cupboard.

Is this an issue for cooks?

Alkaline water is used in dough to make them more elastic... it should be used in very small quantity because it can be dangerous to ingest it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most of the acids mentioned here have been liquid, but there are some great acidic ingredients that are solids. Amchur (dried mango powder) is an essential ingredient in a a tart, spicy channa masala, and sumac's another tangy powder used in middle eastern cooking.

Dr. Zoidberg: Goose liver? Fish eggs? Where's the goose? Where's the fish?

Elzar: Hey, that's what rich people eat. The garbage parts of the food.

My blog: The second pancake

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That soup has a lot of complex flavors going on already. One of my favorite acid ingredients right now is a simple ginger flavored vinegar I make. I heat some brown or regular rice vinegar, take off heat, add a little sugar or a jam like plum, a pinch of salt, and slices of ginger. Keep in jar in refrigerator. Best if allowed to ripen a day or more. The ginger smell is lovely and the taste really brightens things like the soup you mention. I use it with my kabocha soup that has King oysters in it.

This vinegar sounds amazing; I'm going into the kitchen to make some right now. I love ginger. This would be a lovely addition to sushi rice, I think - with the doll festival coming up, I can see making a chirashi sushi with gingered sushi rice and salmon, cucumber and egg.

I'd try lime juice with this. You really need the sharper acidic notes to contrast with the soy/sesame. Using something like tamarind would add too much sweetness on top of the sweet potatoes. Ginger as mentioned above would, I suspect, make a complex soup even more complex; mind you the ginger vinegar sounds wonderful and I can think of a number of dishes it would be perfect in.

I'd like to stay away from limes, since they're not really used that much in Japanese cooking. I could try sudachi, though.

When I have time next week, I'm going to make up a batch of this and try it with a couple of acids. Sudachi, ginger vinegar, and then maybe chinese black vinegar or similar....I'll report back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I use Amchur (dried mango powder) all the time to add a high note to almost any meat- fruit- or sweet vegetable-based dish (props to doctortim for mentioning it).

I think I bought about a half pound of it for a buck fifty at the local indian grocer, and its acidity is very subtle and balanced- perfect for the slight adjustments needed in perfecting a dish.

Torren O'Haire - Private Chef, FMSC Tablemaster, Culinary Scholar

"life is a combination of magic and pasta"

-F. Fellini

"We should never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal."

-J. Child

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I made the miso sweet potato soup last week, and tried it with three types of acidity: chinese black vinegar; ginger rice vinegar; and yuzu juice (sudachi is out of season, I think).

The black vinegar gave the soup a dark, molasses-y taste that seemed heavy and dominant. It was okay, but not my favourite. The yuzu gave a much lighter result, but the strong flavour of the citrus competed with the already complex flavours. I felt like there was too much going on. The ginger vinegar gave the nicest result, in my opinion, as it was (obviously) lighter than the black vinegar, so the acid seemed to be more of a top note. The ginger complemented, rather than competed with the other flavours. It was definitely a clear winner, and it brightened up the soup considerably.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pomegranate Molasses is a middle-eastern sauce which I have found great in so many dishes... it's strongly fruity, has a sweetness as well as an astringent acidity.

I find it great for adding to tagine-style dishes, dribbling it over salads (especially with chickpeas and cous cous) and in sweet applications too - even just over ice cream sometimes!

My bottle has run out and i'm hanging out for some more!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Russ Parsons published an useful article on acidity in the LA Times this week (Feb 18). I could almost taste his written descriptions of how different vinegars changed butternut squash soup. When I went to check the online link for this post I found a cute and very-LA short clip of Russ illustrating his thesis. Thanks Russ!

Click to see Russ on Acid

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I probably have more vinegars than oils in my pantry, a splash often is just the final touch a dish needs!

I've recently sprinkled red wine vinegar on my sandwich bread before applying mayo, then some slices of pastrami or roast beef, arugula and cheese (yogurt cheese recently) on top, a minute in the microwave and there's a delicious lunch!

I add some kind of acid to just about any soup, most sauces. Even as a kid I loved to have a teaspoon of vinegar - and my kids are just the same :-)

I also usually have lemons and limes at home and always have some frozen lime and lemon juice on hand in case the real thing is out.

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been thinking about acidity lately, and about how so many cooks -- both professional and non-professional -- fail to consider acidity when cooking. If you flip through standard cookbooks, you see very few acid components in the recipes. Yet acidity is a key component of many dishes, if you want them to taste their best.

In many cases, acidity can be the difference between a good dish and a great one. The other day, for example, I made some lentils to accompany braised short ribs. The lentils were good, don't get me wrong. They were cooked with the strained, defatted braising liquid from the short ribs, and they had some of the short-rib meat diced up and mixed in with the lentils. But my friend, after tasting from the pot, noted, "It could use a little acidity." A splash of vinegar and it was a substantially better dish.

So, I was hoping we could start a discussion of acidity.

Tom Wirt

newclay@nutelecom.net

1058 Jefferson St SE

Hutchinson, MN 55350

320-587-4718

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been recently kicking a bit of homemade wine vinegar into just about everything cooked on the stovetop and oven dishes like cassoulet. Soups, stews, cassoulet, you name it. Not enough to taste the vinegar, but it gives an incredible kick to the flavor profile of almost everything. Now I'm starting to wonder about baking and how it would interact with other ingredients.

And the flavor of the homemade wine vinegar seems to make a difference versus commercial vinegar or something just adding acid.

Edited by Coyotepots (log)

Tom Wirt

newclay@nutelecom.net

1058 Jefferson St SE

Hutchinson, MN 55350

320-587-4718

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...