Friday, February 04, 2011

blasts from the past ::
make your own natural food coloring

Originally ran Feb 9, 2008


Winter in a Northeastern city grows awfully grey this time of year. Flowers, movies and the occasional ethnic dinner out provide a temporary color-fix, but they're no match for February's industrial landscape. This drabness-- and the impending promise of Easter and Spring--inspired me to make my own natural food colors, using minimal effort and common items from my pantry. [See "How tos," below]




What's in your food coloring?
As anyone with kids can tell you, food coloring can bump up one's perception of taste--one reason why they're so widely used in the U.S. But the day-glo colors of traditional food colors scare me--and with good reason. Many food colorings approved by the U.S. are actually banned in other countries.

A few cases in point: A known carcinogen, FD&C Red No. 40 is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Norway. FD&C Yellow No. 5 is banned in Austria and Norway, since it's linked to asthma attacks and thyroid tumors.

Natural food coloring how tos:
Using about 1/4 cup of vegan buttercream icing as a base for each shade, I came up with 4 shades: yellow, mint green, blush, and raspberry. I wanted to add as much color as possible without altering the flavor. You'll need to double or triple the recipes and experiment with the intensities, depending on the quantities of and types of food you want to color. Mix in the coloring well to avoid streaking.

Yellow: Add 1/4 tsp and a large pinch of stale turmeric to the icing. Turmeric is often used to give vegan puddings and tofu scrambles that "eggy" shade. This is a good use for turmeric that's past its prime, since stale turmeric is fairly flavor neutral.

Blush: Using a sieve, mash the juice from 3 fresh or thawed frozen raspberries directly into the icing.

Mint green: With a fork, mash 1/4 of a small avocado until creamy. Mix this into your icing. [The avocado makes your icing thinner, but in a fluffy, pleasant way.]

Raspberry: Using a sieve, mash the juice from 6 fresh or thawed frozen blueberries and 6 fresh or thawed frozen blackberries directly into the icing.

This list is certainly not definitive. Other natural sources of color include carrots [orange], annatto [yellow], beet juice [pink to red] and chlorella or spirulina [green]. Experiment and color your world! And if you don't have time to make your own food colorings, please be safe and buy all-natural versions.

As most of you know, I took down my original blog (urbanvegan.blogspot.com) several years ago after the dissolution of my marriage. It was too painful/weird for me to leave up what had become a visual diary of my life, meals and travels with my ex. While closing down the original blog was healing for me, it had its downside in terms of frustrated readers. People still email me, inquiring as to the whereabouts of certain posts and recipes. In response, I've decided to occasionally republish some of the more popular articles in a new feature,"Blasts from the Past." If there's a recipe or article you'd like me to repost, please comment or email me.

8 comments:

Alessandra said...

Lovely! I also like to make natural food colouring, you can get lovely green and almost blue from spirulina powder, Barley grass powder and green tea powder :-)

And yellow from saffron :-).

ciao
Alessandra

LovesVeggies said...

love love LOVE this! Seriously, LOVE. Perfect timing to repost with Vday around the corner :)

Michelle said...

great post! my daughter went through a "Pinkalicious" phase last year and we read the book everyday. As a treat, we made pink cupcakes just like in the book. We used raspberry juice to color both the cupcakes and the buttercream, and they came out great!

Bliss Doubt said...

I love this post. I cringe when I see vegan websites using those letter hearts, colored sprinkles and red dyed frostings because the colors are petroleum based and just part of a bad, bad nonfood system. Thanks for the DIY ideas.

Veggie-Kids said...

Yay!!! I love that you posted this! With three kids I'm always having to figure out how to decorate vegan cakes & cupcakes without that nasty food coloring. I love the ideas you had. Pomegranate also gives a nice pinky/reddish hue to frosting, but I only use them when they're in season and pick them from the backyard.

Anonymous said...

Could you bring back the lessons on frugality, (er, i believe it was like "25 tips for frugal vegans"?) I thought that was great. Thanks ^_^

buy herbal supplements said...

I love your idea. Everyone should try this.

Anonymous said...

Beets for red colour