Random Food Fact: Cream of Tartar Confession

It’s ok. You can admit it.

We all have those ingredients tucked away in our cupboards used rarely on those occasions when recipes call for it. And although we may know its purpose, we often don’t know what the heck it really is.

For me, that ingredient is Cream of Tartar.

McCormick's Cream of Tartar

Sure, I get that it can be used as a leavening agent and can be found in meringue or frosting recipes. But up until the other day, I had no idea what it really was and where it came. So here it goes….

According to Wikipedia–and please don’t tell my fellow academics that I’m citing from Wiki ☺:

“Cream of Tartar is also known as Potassium Bitartrate. In food, it is used for:

  • Stabilizing egg whites, increasing their heat tolerance and volume;
  • Preventing sugar syrups from crystallizing;
  • Reducing discoloration of boiled vegetables;
  • Frequent combination with baking soda (which needs an acid ingredient to activate it) in formulations of baking powder;
  • Commonly used in combination with potassium chloride in sodium-free salt substitutes.

A similar acid salt, sodium acid pyrophosphate, can be confused with cream of tartar because of their common function as a baking powder.”

You can also mix Cream of Tartar with white vinegar into a paste mixture and apply it as a cleaning agent to your stainless steel kitchen appliances. All natural and toxic-free cleaner. Woo Hoo.

But my all-time favorite random fact about Cream of Tartar is that it’s a byproduct of when wine is made! Crystalline acid forms on the inside of wine barrels. Once formed, the barrels are scraped and the sediment is purified and ground to form cream of tartar.

Moral of this Random Fact: Cream of Tartar helps build volume in food, can be made into a “green” cleaner, and is derived from your friend and mine–VINO!

Oh, Cream of Tartar–you’re our hero ☺

3 thoughts on “Random Food Fact: Cream of Tartar Confession

  1. When I was going through my classes for nutrition we had a couple cooking courses which I loved. We had to add cream of tartar to boiled veggies and compare its color retention as opposed to it being left out for awhile. Works, but I’ve only used it once since we moved here for my egg whites haha.

  2. no comment. : P

    but, i do have one question: how’d it get its name?

    random thought: wonder if it’ll work as a toothpaste too?

    1. The “tartar” name derives from its chemical name “potassium hydrogen tartrate”-though who knows where the “cream” came from. Maybe the appearance of the residue left on the wine barrels? Where’s Alton Brown when we need him!

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