The fun with ice continues! In ongoing experiments freezing things in ice, I decided to try freezing food coloring in the middle of an ice cube. Then when the ice melts, the coloring will release and change the drink.
Click on the link below to see how I did it and what happened.
In this experiment, I wanted to test out another way to insulate an ice cube tray to make clear ice. Inspired by a comment from another blog entry by a reader named Gael, I decided to try salt water as an insulator rather than just plain water as in the last experiment. If it worked, this would be a way to make clear ice at home without taking up too much freezer space.
I took a small food container and put it into a slightly larger one. The smaller container held only water. The outer container held water with table salt. The theory is that the salt water would not freeze, so it would act as an insulator for the ice, and control the direction of freezing so that it would only freeze from the top-down (as with the cooler method).
I didn't use a ton of salt. As you can see, the outer container's water did freeze lightly,though it was soft. The bottom did not completely freeze, as you can sort of see here.
The inner container did seem to freeze toward the bottom.
In better-insulated containers, the cloudy part is only on the bottom of the container. Here, it is concentrated but raised slightly above the bottom of the container.
In this case the inner container sat directly on the bottom of the outer container, so it wasn't greatly insulated on the bottom. My theory is that this is why the cloudy part of the ice is raised above the bottom.
To improve this experiment, I would put raise the inner container off the bottom of the outer container, and probably use a greater amount of salt in the salt water.
As the outer container here is only slightly larger than the inner container, this system is more space-efficient than the Igloo cooler for many people without large freezers.
In a set of experiments, I showed that you can make clear ice by controling the direction of freezing. The container I've been using for this is an Igloo cooler. When using it, the ice freezes from the top-down and all the cloudiness in the ice forms at the bottom of the container rather than in the middle of the block.
I wanted to show that you can do this without a cooler as long as you have some sort of insultation that accomplishes the same thing as the cooler. In this case, I chose a bigger pool of water as an insulator.
As a control I froze a plastic take-out container of water in the freezer.
As usual, it is cloudy over a large area, mostly in the center. This is because the water freezes from the outside-in. The last part of the ice to freeze contains air and any impurities, and is cloudy.
So then I took the same container and put it into a larger container. The smaller container sits on cubes to keep it off the bottom of the larger container.
Both containers were filled with water to about the same level. The purpose of this is to use the outer container of water as an insulator. The water inside the smaller container would then freeze only from the top-down instead of outside-in, because the water surrounding it would freeze later (because it is so big).
The results show that this worked- the cloudy part of the ice was the last part to freeze at the bottom of the container.
What this means:
Directional freezing works as long as there is an insulated jacket around the container. The ice freezes only from the top-down, pushing the cloudy part to the bottom.
This property could be exploited to make an ice cube tray that makes cloudy-on-the-bottom ice. Picture, for example, an ice cube tray that was insulated with a jacket on the sides and bottom.
So now I can do more experiments to make an insultated jacket that is practical.
As you're probably aware, I've been dabbling in experiments making clear ice at home. The way I've found that works best is to freeze ice in an Igloo cooler with the top off. (Please read the post before you tell me to boil the water in the comments- it doesn't work.)
This is now how I make all my ice at home- I haven't used trays in months.
Now I am working on ways to best carve ice and also trying to create an ice cube tray that will work in this directional freezing system. I found a method that works that I need to perfect.
Here's what I've done.
I went down to The Container Store and purchased these plastic gift boxes. They're 2 inches by 2 inches wide (4.5 centimeters) and around 5 inches tall (11.5 cm) with the tops off.
These I put in my Igloo cooler. I've done it with the open top of the container facing up, and also facing down. Facing down works better, actually, because the air in the rectangles gets pushed out the bottom. Facing up, you get a 1cm cloudy patch at the top of the cubes. No big whoop.
Then I fill the cooler with water and freeze it. It comes out as a block of ice with the cubes stuck in it.
These separate surprisingly easily from the block.
Also surprisingly easy is how the ice pops out of these plastic containers. I just leave them upside-down for a couple minutes and the ice cubes slice right out.
As you can see in the above picture, there is a little bit of cloudiness when the trays are left with the open part facing up. I repeated this experiment with the open part facing down and there was less cloudiness. Either way, there isn't much to worry about as it can be cut off when cutting these big long cubes down to 2 inch by 2 inch by 2 inch ones.
These ice cubes are fricking awesome.
I need to try it with cutting off the bottom of the containers so that they're a rectangular tube rather than a box.
I think this is actually scalable to make an ice cube tray with some tweaking.
I carefully searched the news for ripe olive time, and noticed that the Sonoma Valley Olive Festival runs in December through February. So I planned to hunt for olives in December at the farmer's markets.
But it turns out there was a problem with that logic. Smartly they throw an olive festival after all the olives have ripened and had weeks or months to cure in brine solution. So when I started looking around at farmer's markets in December the olives were already all gone. Curses!
Recently I got a sample of Spike Your Juice, a system of turning your juice into booze. The system is packet of yeast and a special cap that fits onto a juice bottle. The juice has to have a minimum sugar content high enough for the yeast to eat.
The yeast eats the sugar in the juice and releases CO2 and alcohol. This turns your juice into fizzy, alcoholic juice. I gave it a try. Keep reading for results.
I was curious to see if faster frozen blocks (with the freezer turned to its maximum cold setting) would come out more or less cloudy/clear than blocks frozen at the minimum cold setting.
Of course, my freezer isn't exactly high-tech. According to my novelty jumping bass fish thermometer I picked up in Finland (thanks for the trip, Finlandia!), my freezer only ranges from -3.2 to 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
Anyway, as you can see below, there wasn't much difference at all. Here's the block set on the warmest freezer setting (slowest to freeze):
And here at the coldest setting, which froze faster:
My finger (I should be hand model, right?) indicates where I'd cut the block to get rid of the too-cloudy ice. One was 12 cm and the other 12.5. At that difference, you may as well turn the thing all the way up and have your ice sooner.
Camper English is a cocktails and spirits writer for publications including Saveur (Contributing Drinks Editor), FSR Magazine (Spirits Editor), Whisky Advocate, Details.com, PopSci.com, Mixology, Drinks International, and many more. Learn about Camper and Alcademics, or read clips of his published work.