Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sundays with Sparky - Ham with Green Eggs....Of Science!

As you may recall, Sparky and I had spent some time making a birthday present for his cousin...this week, her older brother says goodbye to another year.  This cousin of Sparky's is a bright and curious young man, already capable in the kitchen, so I thought it would be fun to put together a kitchen chemistry set.  Using a couple of really wonderful websites, including Your Mother Was A Chemist, The Naked Scientists, and The Accidental Scientist: Science of Cooking along with a hard day's shopping at American Science and Surplus, we came up with a kit and project list that would make Robert Bunsen blush.

Of course, as much as cooking is about math, even more of it is about chemistry.  I decided that Sparky and I would test out one of the projects, using the red cabbage "litmus" juice.

002First, I had Sparky chop a hefty slice of red cabbage into shreds.  We put the shreds into a saucepan and covered them with water, then brought the water to a boil.  After five minutes, the cabbage was tender, and we turned off the heat and allowed the cabbage to cool in the water.

004Sparky separated two eggs,

007He put the whites together in one cup and left the yolks in half an eggshell, in another.  The cooled purple juice went into an third.

010The egg whites were whisked thoroughly using our spring whisk, and then we stirred in a shot of cabbage juice -

013which instantly turned from deep purple to shocking neon green!  (I estimate we added somewhere between two teaspoons and a tablespoon.)

016We then heated two large puddles of melted butter in a skillet until the butter began to brown.  You will need more butter than you would ordinarily use, since the whisked egg whites will spread quickly:  the butter will help conduct heat to the egg whites and cook them.  Sparky carefully and slowly poured the green egg "whites" into each puddle of butter. After each egg white stopped spreading, he carefully placed the egg yolk on it, and drizzled a bit of extra green egg "white" over the top.

After frying up a few slices of ham - voila! Green Eggs and Ham!  Red cabbage contains anthocyanin, a substance which changes color depending on the ph (acidity or alkalinity) of its environment.  It turns pink in acids, and green in alkalis - since egg whites have a ph slightly above neutral at 7.6, the eggs turned green. (They were delicious, despite their shocking color.)

Sparky spent the rest of the afternoon playing chemist by alternating adding baking soda and vinegar to the remaining cabbage, watching it change color with a "poof" each time - for all the world like Fauna and Merry Weather. 

Chemistry good.

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