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Scotch and Peanuts in the Centrifuge = Some Funky Stuff.

October 23rd, 2009 · 6 Comments · centrifuge

posted by Dave Arnold

The weather’s getting chilly again, so L’Ecole (The FCI’s restaurant) asked me to start thinking about this year’s crop of Red Hot Poker drinks. (If you don’t know about the poker and our modern take on 18th century drinks, look here.) I  brainstormed with Alexis Kahn, who, along with many other duties,  runs L’Ecole’s beverage program. She suggested making a poker drink using our rotovapped scotch and dry-roasted peanuts (the recipe is in our Rotovap Primer). Great idea—but making all that peanut scotch would be a pain in the petoot. I wanted to try something faster.

I thought about doing some fat-washing—a technique to flavor alcohol with fats that a lot of my buddies use—but it wouldn’t be quick enough. I had a lot of scotch to make and not much time.  I wanted to work REALLY FAST. So I had my guys blend Dewars and peanuts in the Vita-prep and spin it in the centrifuge at 4000 g’s for 20 minutes.

If you don’t know about centrifuges, they separate mixtures based on density. You can read our posts on them here, here, and here.

Left to right: the blended scotch and peanut goop before spinning; the very smooth, highly alcoholic peanut butter with almost no scotch taste; the not-so-alcoholic, strange tasting, very peanutty scotch liquid; awesome, awesome, scotch flavored peanut oil

Left to Right: The blended scotch and peanut goop before spinning; The very smooth, highly alcoholic peanut butter with almost no scotch taste; The not-so-alcoholic, strange tasting, very peanutty scotch liquid; Awesome, awesome, scotch flavored peanut oil

I thought we’d get a layer of peanut butter on the bottom (the densest stuff), a layer of peanut flavored scotch (middle density), and a layer of peanut oil on top (the lightest stuff).  We did get that—but in a weird way.  There was a lot of very, very smooth, highly alcoholic peanut butter with very little scotch taste on the bottom.  In the middle was a small layer of scotch and peanut flavored liquid with a low alcohol content and a strange flavor balance.  The real surprise was the peanut oil on top.  We had a very high yield of very good peanut oil with an incredibly pleasing scotch taste.  The oil was a real winner.

Why did this happen?  I know from our experiments centrifuging nut oils and butters that adding a small amount of simple syrup to ground nuts before they are spun increases the yield of oil and makes denser pucks of nut butter.  The high-yield oil you get by adding simple syrup isn’t as flavorful as the smaller quantity you get by spinning the nuts without adding simple syrup.  Strangely, even though we add water in the form of simple syrup, there is no middle water layer in these preparations. All the water gets absorbed in the nut-paste layer.  Shinderhannes, a reader, commented on this simple syrup phenomenon, and pointed out that alcohol should work the same way. We never tried it till now.

What blew my mind was that the peanut butter absorbed so much alcohol but so little flavor from the scotch. Strange.  Also, unlike the simple syrup technique, the high-yield oil from the alcohol trick is full flavored (plus has the extra yummy flavor from the scotch).  Next up: Bourbon flavored pecan oil (America in nut-oil form). And a different idea for the red-hot poker drink.

Side note for anyone who enjoys stupid troubleshooting stories: Some of you may remember that our new centrifuge, the Jouan C412, was acting up on us.  All of a sudden, the motor went from a 4000+ rpm max speed to 3200 rpm.  The good folks over at Ozark Biomedical who service Jouans spent hours trying to help me.  We checked the resistance of the motor windings, we adjusted the current of the driver circuit, we looked at the tach circuit, we checked and replaced the brushes. In an attempt to check the FET’s on the driver board during operation I dropped my test lead and fried one of the drivers. Now it was really broken.  I found a replacement FET and got back to work. As a last effort, I ordered replacement bearings for the motor even though the ones we had felt smooth. When I took the motor apart to replace the bearings I noticed that one of 4 magnets on the rotor that signal the tach had come loose and flown off.  The tach was only sensing 3 magnets, not 4. The damn thing had been working fine the whole time, just reading 25% low.  I bought an optical tach and verified that the machine was reading low.  What a waste of time! I feel even dumber because a reader named Paul A. suggested I use a tach right off the bat.  Kudos to you, Paul. I wish you had been the troubleshooter.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Paul A.

    I would have done the job for peanuts.

    Glad you’re back in working order!

  • Marcus Abernathy

    You cad! The side-by-sides made me spit my milk! You are, without a doubt, the truest hero of every peanut and scotch lover.

    The highly alcoholic peanut butter (with no scotch taste) has some truly intriguing possibilities…

    – Marc

  • schinderhannes

    glad my hypothesis worked out so well!

    Love your blog, even though I comment far too rarely!

    Allow me to go of topic a bit:
    What is your rotavap project doing?
    I wish you all the best with it even though I am a bit sceptic 🙁 Dunno if the magnetic drive will do the trick.

    I thought about alternatives but I guess a falling film evaporator is out of range LOL

    One device that might be ultra cool is made by the Swiss company Buchi: the “Syncore Polyvap” is a parallel evaporator for up to 96 samples (not really what you need) but there is one configuration with 4 samples in parallel and they are 500 mls each (basically giant test tubes with a very wide mouth, more or less a round bottom pint glass) easy to fill and empty and clean… check it out….

    Link below
    TTFN
    Schinderhannes

    http://www.buchi.com/Syncore-Polyvap.221.0.html?&no_cache=1&file=114&uid=38903

    diclaimer: I have nothing to do with Buchi, but workin in a research lab using some of their stuff.

  • rageahol

    the simple syrup thing is interesting. in the lab we frequently use a sucrose gradient to separate proteins by size/weight, i think because it forms a good, cheap matrix to retard the movement of larger particles. kind of like gelatin, i suppose, but i think that because the molecules are smaller so are the “holes” . perhaps that’s what’s going on here.

    I don’t recall ever using ethanol to perform the same kind of separation. ethanol is less dense than water, and way less dense than simple syrup, so i don’t think it’s a usable replacement.

  • Charlie

    This combination is perfectly logical to me. In fact, let’s call it the third and final permutation of a “holy trinity”. We have scotch, we peanuts, and we have butter. Only two of the three possible combinations thereof have been popularized thus far: butterscotch and peanutbutter. So, why in the name of common decency has nobody til now come up with the obvious peanutscotch? Makes perfect scents to me 😉