JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, May 25, 2007

Citric v tartaric acid in elderflower ..

My sister-in-law Kirsty says you can use tartaric acid as well as citric acid when you are making elderflower drinks, and I began to wonder what is the difference between them. It seems very feeble to be aiming at a healthy diet, and then not knowing anything about additives you choose to put in your food.

Tartaric acid (E334), like citric acid (E330), stops bacteria in its tracks, and they both also give a tart flavour to the finished drink.

I'm not any kind of scientist, so anything much deeper than this goes right over my head ... so much so that, after reading through the various links, I'm making a decision that would probably disgrace a primary school child - I am going to use tartaric acid rather than citric acid, because it seems to be used exclusively as a food and drink additive (it's used in bread- and wine-making), whereas citric acid finds its way into cleaning materials and shampoo, and is apparently the ingredient that does the damage to hair in Sun-in (have your children ever turned their hair green with the Sun-in / swimming combination? you haven't lived!)

The Food Additives and Ingredients Association website says it is produced in collaboration with York University, so I feel inclined to trust it as a starting point. The British Soft Drinks Association (yes, really) gives an overview explanation of the differences. But I'm not sure how much I trust it, because the funding for such a beautiful website probably comes direct from the soft drink giants, so here's Wikipedia on citric acid and tartaric acid.

They are both obviously tried and tested additives, so I suppose in the end, the best guide is taste, with ease of availability coming a pretty close second!


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

There is way more science in cooking than meets the eye even if it's not rocket science. For instance I bogged about garlic confit several weeks ago and now find it must not only be kept refrigerated but discarded after 3 weeks!
I would have went with your choice based on the way you presented it.

The Old Foodie said...

Good post Joanna. I had often wondered what the difference was, but never got around to researching it (so much research, so little time!). Now you have done it for me.

Joanna said...

Thanks ... when I told Lucius my decision and the reasons for it, he said that tartaric acid must be a less strong acid than citric. Which probably means that the syrup won't keep so long.

We're going to do a tasting. I'm just off to pick the flowers!

Anonymous said...

I make a wonderful lemon cordial and ran out of citric acid but I do have plenty of tartaric acid. On reading your info, I have decided to use up what I have, refrigerate it and hope for the best..Thank you for giving me the courage to try it.

Jayne Evans said...

Tartatic acid. An acid widely diffused throughout the vegetable kingdom, as in grapes, mountain-ash berries, etc., and obtained from tartar as a white crystalline substance, C2H2(OH)2.(CO2H)2 , having a strong pure acid taste. It is used in medicine, in dyeing, calico printing, photography, etc., and also as a substitute for lemon juice. Called also dextro-tartaric acid . Websters on line dictionary.
This is an old post but I found a source that puts the reason for your choice in question.

Joanna said...

Thanks Jayne. I must revisit this subject ... it obviously doesn't matter much for short-term storage of syrups etc that live in the fridge, but it is clearly more important if you're making a batch that you want to last more than a fortnight