Today, prepare yourself for a delightful lesson on Spherification, which, contrary to its serious name, is really a barrel of laughs. Why, you ask? Because it involves the creation of these marvelous little orbs of vegan caviar that sparkle and shine like gems. This technique is not only a breeze, but also kind to your wallet, allowing you to dive into a limitless world of creativity. Imagine any color or flavor you desire, whether sweet or savory. But the real cherry on top is how much fun it is to bring these tiny pearls to life, making it an absolute hoot for kids and adults alike! So, let’s jump into this fascinating adventure together!
Spherification is not a new concept. It’s a culinary process that was invented in the 1940’s by English food scientist William J. S. Peschardt, as a way to create “edible imitation cherries and other soft fruits and foodstuffs.” I’m not going to get into the science of spherification, but you can find out more here. Basically, the technique uses a gelling agent to shape liquids into squishy little spheres that resemble caviar.
To make our little beads of vegan caviar, we will be using a quick and easy process called Cold Oil Spherification, which involves only three ingredients – agar agar, whatever flavor/color liquid you want, and some cold oil.
What you will need:
To make the vegan caviar pearls you will need three ingredients:
- Your liquid of choice
- Agar agar powder
- Some cold oil – refrigerated for at least an hour
You will also need a tall glass and an eye dropper. You don’t need to buy anything fancy. I re-purposed a small glass eye dropper from an empty bottle of echinacea that I can rinse and reuse over and over.
Agar agar is a gelatinous substance derived from red seaweed. It is odorless, colorless and flavorless, and makes a perfect vegan substitute for gelatin. It can be used as a thickening agent in any recipe that traditionally calls for animal derived gelatin, such as jellies, custards, or sauces. Agar agar comes in powder form, flakes, or sheets.
For the caviar I recommend the powdered agar agar.
This can be anything you like, and it can be either sweet or savory. A half a cup of liquid makes about 1/4 cup of caviar pearls. As a general rule, I use 1 teaspoon of agar agar powder per 1/2 cup of liquid.
Here are some ideas…
- Soak a sheet of nori in 1/2 cup of boiling water to infuse it with that fishy taste, allow it to steep for 10 minutes, drain and use. You can also add a 1/4 teaspoon of activated charcoal to give the caviar that very black color.
- 1/4 cup soy sauce mixed with 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup of hot sauce – Sriracha is always a favorite – mixed with 1/4 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of fruit juice – blueberry, raspberry, apple, ginger, pineapple…Thin juices work better, so if you want to use a thicker puree strain it and dilute with a bit of water.
- 1/2 cup of vegetable juice – beets, spinach, carrot…
- black tea, green tea, or coffee
- 1 teaspoon wasabi powder mixed in 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder mixed with 1/2 cup water
Making the caviar:
The process is very simple.
Mix the agar agar and liquid in a small pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes to activate the agar agar.
Pour some cold oil, that has been in the refrigerator for at least a hour, into a tall glass or container. (Once you are finished making the caviar, you can reuse the oil so it does not go to waste.)
Remove the liquid from the heat, pull some of the hot liquid into the dropper and squeeze drops into the oil. You will want to do this while the liquid is still hot, otherwise the agar agar will begin to set.
As soon as you add a drop into the glass, the cold temperature will cool the liquid on contact, and as the little drops travel down the tall glass they are shaped into perfect little spheres by the thick oil.
Once you have used up all of your liquid, strain the oil and reuse, and your vegan caviar is ready!
- 3 cups oil save and reuse after straining the pearls
- ½ cup liquid of choice see the post above for some suggestions
- 1 teaspoon agar agar powder
- Place the oil in the refrigerator, or freezer, for one hour.When the oil is cold you can prepare the liquid.
- Add the liquid into a small pot. Sprinkle in the agar agar powder and whisk to mix.
- Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to activate the agar agar.
- While the liquid is simmering, pour the cold oil into a tall glass.
- Remove the liquid from the heat.
- Draw some hot liquid into your eye dropper and begin to add the drops to the cold oil.
- Once all the liquid is done, strain the oil and caviar. Save the oil to reuse as you normally would.
- Store any extra caviar in a container in the refrigerator for about a week.