A TROUBLESHOOTING GUIDE TO TRYING NEW RECIPES
►The process of turning liquids into caviar-shaped pearls through the spherification technique has been around since the 1950s, but until the invention of the Spherificator you now own it was an extremely arduous, time-consuming and inconsistent task. If you have done it before using a syringe you will be thankful that those times are now behind us and you’ll be pumping out all kinds of pearls in no time – but if you are new to the technique and having a little bit of trouble getting a particular ingredient to work this guide has been made specifically for you!
►First things first – DO NOT EVER ATTEMPT TO PUT SOLIDS IN THE MACHINE.
This will certainly clog the hosing and likely break the machine. The technique works on liquids only so if you will be using solid ingredients such as mint leaves ensure they are adequately blended into a puree and strained as well as possible before proceeding with the addition of the sodium alginate.
►If you are planning on making pearls out of an acidic ingredient such as hot sauce or salad dressing, you will need to use sodium citrate. Other liquids may require sodium citrate as well.
►There are three ingredients that came with your Spherificator – sodium alginate, calcium chloride, and sodium citrate. The sodium alginate is the thickener that will always be added to your ingredient/liquid going into the top of the machine and the calcium chloride will always be dissolved in the water bath that you will be dropping your pearls into. The sodium citrate is used in conjunction with the alginate to create the right consistency in the mixture, but is not always necessary.
Your calcium chloride bath will ALWAYS consist of 4.5g (1 tsp) fully dissolved in 500mL of water.
DO NOT put calcium chloride in the top of the machine – this will cause gelling in the tubes if it comes in contact with any sodium alginate and your Spherificator could stop working as a result. If anything is going to give you trouble it will be creating the mixture consisting of your chosen ingredient and the sodium alginate. There is trial-and-error involved whenever you are attempting to spherificate a new ingredient.
1. The first thing we always do is judge the consistency of the ingredient. If it is very thick such as chocolate syrup we know that if we add sodium alginate straight into the mixture it will become far too thick to run freely through the machine. Therefore you must dilute this mixture equally with water. If your ingredient is not quite as thick (has a consistency similar to grenadine), we would recommend a 2:1 mixture – two parts grenadine to one part water. For simplicity sake your chocolate mixture would be 150mL syrup and 150mL water. Your grenadine mixture would be 200mL syrup and 100mL water. If you are using an ingredient such as a soft drink that has a high water content already you may be able to get away without diluting or adding any water at all. Just keep in mind that the sodium alginate must be able to bind to water and if there is not enough your mixture will not work.
2. Now you are ready to add your alginate! Until you get the hang of it, we will always recommend starting with 2g sodium alginate (1¼ tsp) no matter what your mixture is. Depending on how it turns out from there you will always be able to tweak your results. To add the alginate, measure out 2g using an accurate scale (or 1¼ teaspoons) and then slowly sprinkle it into your mixture as you use a hand blender to thoroughly mix it in. You should begin to see your mixture thicken right away. Once all of your alginate is mixed in you are looking for it to be the consistency of sugary syrup, so not as runny as water but not as thick as Ketchup. Don’t worry – you’ll get the hang of this and know what to look for in no time! If this is what your mixture looks like you are ready to go on to Step #5. If it is too runny go to Step #3, if it is too thick go to Step #4.
3. My mixture is still too runny – what do I do? Don’t panic, this is an easy fix! Simply measure out some more alginate (usually add a maximum of 0.5-1g at a time) and blend it into your mixture. The more you add the thicker it will get, but don’t go overboard!
4. My mixture is too thick – what do I do? This is occurring for one of two reasons: either you added too much sodium alginate or your ingredient is acidic. Please follow one of the below steps or else you may find your end result looks more like tiny noodles than caviar!
- If your ingredient is not acidic and you think you added too much alginate, you can counterbalance this by blending some more water into your mixture. The downside of this is that you will be further diluting the flavor of your ingredient the more water you add, so the sodium citrate method is preferable.
- Add sodium citrate. This product has a sour-salty taste so you do not want to add more than you need to however it will neutralize acidic ingredients allowing your solution to be able to flow freely through the Spherificator. To add the sodium citrate, first fully dissolve ¼ tsp (1g) at a time in as little warm water as possible and then pour into your mixture as you again blend it with your immersion blender. Continue to add one dissolved gram of sodium citrate in this manner until your solution has the required consistency.
5. My mixture is just right.Congratulations, your mixture is almost ready to be spherificated! We recommend letting it sit for approximately 45 minutes to let the air bubbles escape but this is not always necessary, especially if you strain it thoroughly.
6. You can finally add your ingredient mixture in the top of the Spherificator. It will hold up to a maximum of 200mL at a time which will create a lot of pearls. Just pull off the top cap, fill up the inner funnel and put the lid back on. Make sure you are near an outlet as the Spherificator needs to be plugged in to work.
7. Separately prepare your calcium chloride bath of 4.5g per 500mL of water in a medium-sized bowl. Ensure the calcium chloride is fully dissolved by mixing in a circular motion with a spoon.
8. Hold your Spherificator about 6 inches over the calcium bath and press the button. You will hear it begin to work and there will be a slight delay as it pumps your liquid through the internal hoses. Within seconds it will start rapidly dropping out of the bottom of the machine. Move the Spherificator in a circular motion over the bath and you will notice that each drop that hits the water will immediately pull into a perfect sphere.
9. After the pearls have sat in the bath for about 1 minute or so, use a strainer to lift them out of the calcium bath. You can also pour the contents of the calcium bath through a strainer into another similar-sized container as this is the easiest way to capture the pearls while keeping your calcium bath prepared for the next batch of pearls. Give them a quick rinse off with water to remove any extra calcium and they are ready to serve!