Talking about acidity in the kitchen, we aren’t referring to heartburn, rather to the element that creates a perfect balance of flavor in our dishes. While your stomach may not always believe it, acidic ingredients are necessary in food preparation for reasons that will be discussed below.
A spark of flavor
Vinegar, lemon juice, sour cream, pickles, tomato, beer, wine, and chocolate are just some of the elements that we use to give our preparations a spark of flavor. A bland dish acquires new life when we add some acidity to it. Not only that, acid also helps to cut the fat of certain foods and “clean” the palate.
First, let’s look at tacos – I mean, who doesn’t love them? Imagine if they were served without the requisite lime wedges, we’d enter into panic because we all know how tasty that fatty, fried meat is with a squeeze of lime.
Yucatan and its gastronomy
Let’s take a trip, real or imaginary, to the Yucatan peninsula, a culinary oasis whose cooks have mastered the use of acidity in food with a key ingredient in particular: sour orange. This element is essential for so many of its dishes like suckling pig, habanero onions, turkey with pickled vegetables, and, to cite another citrus fruit, the region’s famous lime soup.
Between sweet and sour
Next, what about salads? Wouldn’t you agree that the perfect salad contains a mix of sour and sweet elements? Many of them contain citrus fruits as their principal note, such as tangerine or mango, which are then balanced with honey, caramelized nuts, or cheese.
And it’s not only salads that pair the acidic with the creamy. If we go further afield to Modena, Italy, we’ll find balsamic vinegar is often added to ice cream!
For centuries the secrets of cooking belonged only to those who were in charge of the kitchen. But the 21st century has been one of experimentation for us ordinary folks, discovering those secrets and tricks of the trade. Let’s keep peeking behind the curtain to learn more about the chemistry behind the dishes that make us smile!