Why cranberry sauce manufacturers always use acid.

When you’re making your holiday baking or advent calendar cranberry sauce, here’s the one rule you probably follow. The standard cranberry sauce recipe always includes a teaspoon of, well, cream. Now, researchers are puzzled…

Why cranberry sauce manufacturers always use acid.

When you’re making your holiday baking or advent calendar cranberry sauce, here’s the one rule you probably follow. The standard cranberry sauce recipe always includes a teaspoon of, well, cream. Now, researchers are puzzled by the fact that some of the most successful cranberry sauce varieties in the market are against this “basic” rule.

“The question we wanted to answer was: What are cranberry sauce manufacturers using to make their cranberry sauce upside down?” explained Frank Syrek, a chemist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. As part of a broader study into antioxidants and how they affect our health, Syrek and his colleagues reviewed records for 71 cranberry-producing states and tested 186 cranberry sauces.

Scientists were particularly intrigued by how upside-down cranberry sauce tasted. “From our results, most of the cranberry sauce varieties below six percent pH are indicated to be acidic, and some flavors such as strawberry definitely are acidic,” Syrek wrote in an email. Sour plum flavor, minty grapefruit, and icy (!) peach flavor were notable exceptions to the tartness rule. “Our analysis suggests that cranberry sauce manufacturers do use acidity to flavor their sauces,” Syrek wrote.

What ingredients might help to make them up? Syrek cited the use of high-fermentation pressure, as described in more scientific terms as fermentation, to create acid. He cited high-fructose corn syrup as a possible acidifying substance, although the sugar and acids that high-fructose corn syrup contains are often added to sweeten food, not used to flavor it.

So, is a meal of cranberry sauce inevitably going to be acidic? Not quite. The enzyme ferric citrate, for example, is used to stabilize the acidity of acidic foods. The various levels of sugar and acid that we add to foods also vary by individual cooks. “The acidity (or lack thereof) is not standardized, so when we compare cranberry sauce recipes, we can’t even agree on the acidity range,” said Syrek. For that reason, Ferrero Mattina, maker of Toasted Almond Crisp, contacted the BBC and explained that their cranberry sauce contains five parts sugar to one part acid.

So what’s the answer? Well, no one really knows, but it would seem that the manufacturer’s recipes for their mixture are of far more importance than the science-lab experiments of Frank Syrek.

Read the full story at The Conversation.

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