By Katy Killilea
Recently in the kitchen laboratory we learned how to make ginger ale, ice cream, and Jello from almost nothing but pixie dust. Some people observe the transformation of ingredients and think: How did we get from point A to point B? Others think merely: Where is my spoon? These are worthwhile experiments, however your mind works and whatever your age.
Jello: Making jello at home from a packet from the Jell-o company might be enough of a thrill for some chemists. But the frontiers of science must not be limited to the likes of lime and blue raspberry. With agar-agar (a seaweed derivative) or plain gelatin (if the cowhide/hoof thing isn’t an issue), you can turn almost any liquid into jello.
Grape juice and orange juice are fun, but what about apricot nectar? Pureed watermelon? Chocolate milk? (Gin and tonic?) It’s fun to see the unexpected wiggle-jiggle, and in many cases the result will be fun to eat as well. Sometimes your liquid might not become jello or will be unpalatable. Do not be disgruntled: Was Excedrin PM invented in one day? Time for a new hypothesis and more experimentation.
Young Chemist’s Jello
- 2 cups orange juice
- 2 tablespoons agar-agar flakes (use less if what you have is agar-agar powder)
- Pinch of salt
- Sugar to taste, a tablespoon per cup of juice, if you want a more Jell-o-like jello (optional)
In a small saucepan, stir the ingredients with a whisk and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Turn heat to low and simmer for three minutes. Pour into four dessert dishes (or juice glasses if you’re feeling pranky) and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until set.
Ginger ale: If you are heavily into both DIY and fizz, equipping your home for fizzmaking is a logical next step. Instructions for building your own CO2 pump are readily available online. For heavy users of fizzy water who aren’t inclined to start from tubing, gaskets, and pliers, a soda maker (like these from Soda Stream) makes sense, both in terms of creating less waste (no more cans or bottles) as well as liberating oneself from the lugging of cases of water. This is such a fun tool for children. They love pumping CO2 into water. There are whistles and gas releases to hear (hilarious for potty-humor enthusiasts), and they can see results almost instantly. Still water becomes seltzer in a few seconds, and it’s magic every time.
Another ecologically sound/lazy fizz solution is home delivery by Stella Brothers. Stella Brothers delivers seltzer to your door in beautiful, old fashioned glass bottles.
Once you have the fizz, by whatever method, you can use commercially made syrups or juices to make your own sodas and spritzers, or you can conjure up your own. For ginger ale, stir this syrup into plain seltzer.
Ginger Simple Syrup
- 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
Stir ingredients together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour through a mesh strainer into a storage container.
Ice Cream: No cream or ice cream maker is required for this ice cream. Overripe bananas: into the freezer for a future banana bread? Blended with soymilk and berries for a smoothie? Eaten frozen on a stick, drizzled with chocolate? All great uses for bananas. But bananas, with no other ingredients, can also become ice cream.
Banana Ice Cream
- Overripe bananas, peeled, cut or broken into hunks, and frozen solid (use at least 4 bananas for 2 people)
- Chocolate chips, optional
In a Cuisinart or other mighty food processor, blitz the frozen bananas until they are the consistency of soft ice cream. With one or two pulses, mix in the optional chocolate. Spoon into bowls and eat immediately.
What chemistry experiments have you been up to in your kitchen?
Sodastream provided a sample for this article. Neither the author nor Kidoinfo has received any monetary compensation from Sodastream, nor do we have any undisclosed relationship with Sodastream.