A guest project by Rich Faulhaber, contributing Evil Mad Scientist.
“Infusing unsuspecting whole fruit with gaseous CO2 in the entire Tri-State Area!”
In an effort to make fruit fun for the kids, I built a carbon dioxide injector from parts in my garage with the purpose of carbonating whole fruit! With a common house water filter housing, a 16 Oz paintball CO2 canister, an old gas regulator, and some miscellaneous valves and fittings, I was able to bring this fizz fruit apparatus to life, and the kids love the results.
Carbon dioxide dissolves well in water, hence the reason you find it as the source of fizz in all your favorite soda drinks. When you open your soda and let it sit out on the counter you will find that after some period of time the soda loses its fizz and becomes “flat.” The rate at which the drink loses its fizz depends on pressure, temperature and the surface area of the liquid and the environment. Skipping the thermodynamics lecture, let me just tell you that the process works in reverse as well. To reverse this process, one needs only to have a high pressure CO2 environment, a medium to infuse (i.e., the fruit) and enough time to let the gas diffuse across the fruit skin and dissolve into the water inside. Refrigerating the fruit helps tremendously in the process as well.
16 Oz paintball cylinder (or a more proper CO2 tank if you happen to have one)
Household water filter housing
Toggle or ball valve
Miscellaneous fittings to hook it all up
This type of water filter housing is designed to withstand water pressures in excess of 100 psi, and it comes with two ports and an o-ring seal. These can be bought for about ten dollars at Lowes or Home Depot. Its ports are standard 3/4-inch type. Use Teflon tape (plumbers tape) on all the threads. Thread in a plug on one side and a valve on the other. I used a toggle valve with a quick disconnect to make everything easier. The hose can by any standard type rated for at least 100 psi. Small bundles are available in the plumbing section of your hardware store.
For gas handling I used an old single stage regulator. These can be quite expensive new but often times you can find deals at garage sales or in surplus stores. You don’t need anything fancy, just something to step down the pressure to something manageable– well below 100 psi. My CO2 source is a standard-issue paintball cylinder.
Pre-chill the fruit in the refrigerator. Get it nice and cold. My favorites are grapes, oranges and blueberries. However, just about any fruit with a large water content will work.
Open the house water filter by unscrewing the lid. Place your cold fruit inside.
Connect the CO2 tank to your water filter housing. This is where the quick disconnects come in handy.
Adjust the regulator output to about 40-60 psi, the higher the better but make sure all your connections are extra tight and sealed or “it might get dangerous.” If you think you have a leak somewhere, you can apply some soapy water where you think the leak is and look for bubbles. If you see bubble just tighten until they stop forming.
Start pressurizing the house filter by opening the toggle valve. On top of the water filter housing there is a pressure relief button. Depress this while you fill to get some of the residual air out.
Once pressurized, shut the toggle valve and disconnect the CO2 line. You can store the unit in the fridge or somewhere out of sight.
Then, you wait. Depending on the fruit, temperature, and pressure, carbonation should occur between 20-60 minutes. If you go too long at too high a pressure the skin of the fruit can burst and it will be a big mess, if you go too short and at too low of a pressure, the results will be unimpressive. Experiment with your fruit, pressure, and duration until it suits your tastes.
Open the toggle valve to release the pressurized gas then unscrew the lid to the housing and enjoy your newly carbonated fruit.
And of course, the kids love the “poppy fizz” inside the fizzy fruit.
It’s lemon season again, and that means more marmalade!
Last year we showed how incredibly easy it is to make a simple marmalade. That kind was more of the bitter, opaque variety–which might be your favorite–but here’s how to take that to the next step and make a light and sweet marmalade.
Woo-hoo! We just got Cooking for Geeks in the mail. You can view it as a cookbook that takes time to delve into the science of the recipes or a food science book with demonstrative recipes. Or maybe an introduction to everything that food geeks know about, but everyone else wishes they did. It also has a series of interviews with geeks, chefs and scientists– including us, but I’m not sure which of those categories we fit into. Regardless, we enjoyed talking with Jeff about the book and are happy to see it out in print!
The cover design with splatter marks and stains means less worry when it gets spilled on in the process of cooking (not that I’ve ever worried about that with any of my other cookbooks).
Most pages have ample room for margin notes, which is something I’m fond of for recipe alterations. It flops open on the counter well, too.
We got a nice shoutout from Jeff on NPR’s Science Friday last week for the laser cut pie crust from our Apple pie, which is featured in the book along with our electrocuted hot dogs. Thanks, Jeff, and congrats on getting the book out there!
Our neighbors stopped by with buckets (yes, buckets) of excess plums. Not that you’ll necessarily be so lucky, but if you should happen to find a nice supply of plums, here’s something awesome you can make with them: Indian style plum chutney. Perfect for topping your samosas or naan, and at least as easy as marmalade.
There are a few standard ways to acquire spices. The usual involves buying a new spice now or then when you need it for some new recipe. Or perhaps acquiring a “set of spices” with a built in organizer system. These obviously work, but are prone to being expensive, disorganized, or subject to artificial limits. Obviously, a more optimal solution exists. We set out to create a better, backwards compatible, scalable spice organization system so that you don’t feel silly adding another 20 or 30 or 40 items to your palette.
Indian style preserved lemons, commonly referred to just as “lemon pickle,” come in probably not hundreds, but thousands of varieties. Here’s how to make just one of these amazing creations: Gujarati Lemon Pickle.
Sweet, salty and easy to make, it takes a few spices, a few minutes and about a month.
The basic picture of the atom that many of us grew up with– that of little electrons orbiting the nucleus like so many planets orbiting the sun –turns out to be a little misleading. Reality is somewhat more complicated: a matter of wave functions, spherical harmonics, and ultimately probability clouds.
The chart above shows the appearance of a single hydrogen atom in a few of its lowest excited states.
In each of those states, the electron is found in a different orbital, some of which have unfamiliar shapes. But even the term “shape” is a little funny for something that you can’t hold in your hand. These are actually probability density plots, which show the likelihood of observing the electron in any one position at a given time– and more correctly, 2D projections of 3D probability densities.
So even the humble hydrogen atom can be a bit complex. Fortunately, we have advanced technology that can help us cut though the quantum mechanical haze: Cookies!
These are atomic spritz cookies, made by taking a fairly common cookie press and outfitting it with custom plates.
It’s not quite a trivial process, but the end result is pretty neat: you get to eat the atomic orbitals. Continue reading →