I'm so excited about this post! In fact, I'm giggling with excitement as I type.
You see, ever since I was a kid, I've loved things that change color.
I love opals and Alexandrite and weird things like mood rings. In the late 80's, I had a collection of color changing t-shirts that changed color when the temperature went up. Then, on one of our cruises, I stocked up on things that changed color when the sun hit them. I came home with everything from color changing hair clips to color changing nail polish.
I know, I know, color changing nail polish is probably not a very natural product. 😉
The color changing food coloring that I'm about to show you today, though, totally is 100% natural! I discovered it completely by accident yesterday, and was giddy and jumping with joy all afternoon.
Even my husband was impressed and admitted that this was pretty cool! (He's not a huge fan of crafty things or holiday fun like me!)
So, let's go back to where the story begins…
I was working on my Easter marshmallow peeps recipe, and began by making myself some DIY natural food coloring and homemade colored sugar crystals.
I had already successfully made myself some pink, yellow, and green sugar crystals, when I decided to continue with my experiment.
Seeing as how fresh spinach leaves worked well as a DIY natural food coloring, I decided to see what would happen if I used a few purple cabbage leaves that I just happened to have nearby.
To make the coloring, I used a bit of casalla, a strong, anise flavored liqueur that is quite common here. I chose casalla because it has the highest percentage of alcohol of anything I had at home (48%); plus, I love the flavor. Since most of you probably don't have casalla sitting around, you can use any strong alcohol of choice. I used vodka for all of my other colors, and didn't think to try the casalla until I was ready to make my cabbage food coloring.
Just as I did with my green spinach food coloring, I blended a few cabbage leaves with my liqueur, just using enough to get everything blended together. I tried using mostly the ends of the leaves, the thinnest part, to have the highest concentration of bright purple color.
My resulting puree worked beautifully for coloring more sugar crystals a pretty shade of purple.
I was happy, and ready to move on and clean up.
I was finished!
Or was I?
When I went to clean up my blender, I noticed something strange when the water hit it!
The purple DIY natural food coloring that I had made, was no longer purple, but instead was blue!!
Our water here on the Eastern coast of Spain is extremely hard, and has high levels of calcium, making it very basic. I suspected that the high pH of the water might be affecting the color of the purple cabbage, and after a bit of online research, I was pretty sure I was right!
So, I began my experiment…
I took some of my purple sugar crystals and separated them into 3 separate bowls.
I then proceeded to look for pantry items that would change the ph of my sugar crystals. I came back with baking soda, for raising the pH, and ascorbic acid powder, for lowering the pH.
First I added baking soda to one of the bowls, and was excited to see the sugar crystals immediately turn a beautiful shade of baby blue!!
I excitedly proceeded to add the ascorbic acid to the other bowl, and could hardly believe my eyes when I saw it turn a bright shade of baby pink!
One quick and easy DIY natural food coloring ended up easily making 3 beautiful colors!
I wanted to try out my color changing food coloring with water, but, of course, my water is so basic that I start out with blue colored water so I had to go out and buy some distilled water, and I tried it out again with that!
Using distilled water, I was able to repeat the process of instantly getting blue liquid with baking soda, and pink liquid with the ascorbic acid. I showed my son, and he was really excited about it, so much so that he has made me show it to everybody who came over in the last couple of days!
The only problem with it is that I wasn't able to turn it orange and green when my son wanted those colors. 😛
Watch the Magical, color changing food coloring in action
I ended up leaving the cabbage in the liqueur overnight, and the next morning I filtered out the plant material, using a tight woven cloth to filter out the cabbage. It worked beautifully, leaving gray cabbage plant material behind, and filtering out a pretty purple liquid which is my DIY magical, color changing food coloring!
For now, a few days later, the color seems to be holding steady. I'll try to hang on to it and let you know if I'm able to keep it shelf stable for long periods of time.
I'll probably experiment with making color extracts in a variety of colors and try to use them in a variety of recipes and/or activities. I think that letting some of the alcohol evaporate could help leave a concentrated natural food coloring behind. For those worried about the alcohol in it, compare it with what you would have in vanilla extract; neither is meant to be used in high concentrations (Although you could choose to try it in a higher concentration in a color changing cocktail or something like that).
For now, I'm working on thinking of fun uses for this one…
Anyone up for some color changing drinks? 😛
I'd love to hear your ideas!
This post is also available in Español.