Why You Need Cream of Tartar in Your Kitchen

Just 3 days ago I announced I wasn’t going to post on Fridays and here it is, Friday, and here I am.  I changed my mind about posting, but not about posting Friday recipes.  Fridays will be be devoted to This and That.  Food talk.  Maybe product evaluations, or cookbook reviews, or equipment suggestions, or cooking techniques, there may even be a recipe or two, but they will only be basics – coconut milk, white sauce and the like.

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So that brings me to Cream of Tartar.  I finally used up my last jar after about 20 years and buying a new one made me wonder just what it is and why bother to replace it.  Cream of tartar (scientifically known as potassium bitartrate) is most often used in cooking to stabilize and increase the volume of beaten egg whites and in candy making to prevent crystallization of sugar.  You may think you’ve never used it, but if you’ve ever used baking powder, you’ve used cream of tartar.  Baking powder is a mixture of cream of tartar and baking soda (and if you want to make your own at home just mix 2 teaspoons cream of tartar with 1 teaspoon baking soda.  If you want to  make a bigger batch and store it, stir in a little cornstarch to prevent clumping).

It’s also a favorite with people who prefer to avoid chemical cleaners as it is reported to be a great stain remover (http://www.mrsjanuary.com/simple-living/cream-of-tartar-uses/  http://www.stain-removal-101.com/cream-of-tartar-uses.html )

I also learned that cream of tartar is that white stuff you sometime find on corks in wine bottles or even sometimes on grape jelly.  Who knew?

But all that is hardly a really good reason to buy a (relatively expensive – about $6/bottle) bottle of cream of tartar.  My number one reason (one I haven’t found on any other blog/website) is:

It’s a rescuer of pots burnt beyond recognition by sometimes distracted cooks.

You know, the time you put up spaghetti to cook then got started on a project and didn’t remember the spaghetti until the smoke alarm went off.  Or more frequently in my home, when the popcorn burnt because I wasn’t sure I had let it pop enough.  Those pots that no matter how hard you scrub with steel wool or Comet, or how much you scrape with a knife, still have these incredible black patches all over the bottom.  Here’s the answer:

1.  Fill the pot/pan with about an inch of water and stir in about 1 tablespoon cream of tartar.

2.  Boil 3 to 5 minutes, then take the pot off the heat.

3.  With the water still in the pot, scrape the bottom with a metal spatula.  Like magic that black substance is now floating and can just be poured out with the liquid – you will still want to use some steel wool just to polish it up.

That bottle of cream of tartar has just saved you the cost of a replacement pot/pan!

Hope you’ll enjoy the interesting tidbits in the Fridays to come.

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