20 July 2010
Ingredient Spotlight: Xanthan Gum
Go take a look at your condiment rack. Xanthan gum is probably an ingredient in many of the store-bought condiments. What the hell is it?! Wikipedia tells us it's a polysaccharide, but that doesn't really help, so I did some further research...
Xanthan gum is made from the outer shell of a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris (you've probably seen these little fellas causing brown spots on plants). It's used in foods, particularly condiments, to increase viscosity...AKA thickness...and a little bit goes a looonnnnng way. All you molecular gastronomists reading TCB will be interested to know that xanthan gum works by stabilizing the oil in a condiment emulsion, but it is not an emulsifier.
The good news is that xanthan gum has been approved for food usage since 1968, so its been around for a while.
Note: Having trouble thickening up your homemade sauces? You can pick up some xanthan gum from Bob's Red Mill for around $12.
Image: Xanthan Gum, by star5112