Jun. 2nd
2011
written by scott

Pea butter is one of the primary reasons I was compelled to put a laboratory centrifuge in my house.  It is an iridescent, velvety substance produced in miniscule quantities by spinning peas at high G-forces.  It’s also one of the most vivid flavors I’ve ever tasted, and I needed to make it at home.

The existence of pea butter was unearthed by the Modernist Cuisine team, using a centrifuge the size of a washing machine.  My cooking compadre, Jethro, was the first kid on the block with a home-sized centrifuge (if you’re single, or have a basement) and did a great write-up on his pea butter experience back in February.  Jethro whipped frozen peas into a powder, then centrifuged them for 5 hours.  Contrary to his technique, I found that I was able to extract roughly the same yield of pea butter by blending thawed peas into a liquid and spinning it for 3 hours.  I believe the reason is due to Brownian Motion (see the explanation on the eGullet Centrifuges thread). 

I also decided to try the same technique with corn.  Corn and peas are both wet and chewy, they both contain starch, and they’re both really sweet.  After 3 hours of spinning at 1500Gs, I couldn’t detect a corn “butter”, per se, but I did get a thick, milky corn liquid that was extremely flavorful and rife for culinary applications.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be hunting for ways to use these centrifuged components.  Check back for recipes that will spin you right-round.

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9 Comments

  1. 02/06/2011

    Scott, every time I come back to your site, I see you’ve stepped up your game again. This is a fantastically interesting and educational video, and I really appreciated your showing the different levels of separation. Perhaps next time a slight close-up on the layers, as if spread lightly on a plate or cutting board so we could see the texture differences (for the solids, for example)?
    Those pea solids – I could see dehydrating those and using them in pasta or a savory pastry of some sort? Love it.
    Big fan, man. Big fan.

  2. 02/06/2011

    Oh, and I forgot to say – gee, if you can make amazing stuff from frozen veggies, do you think there’s much flavor difference in the fresh stuff? I’d imagine so, but I bet there would be more of a difference in the water content and sugar content. I’d love to use the refractometer on those to see.

  3. 02/06/2011

    @Jenny Great idea! I’m going to work on turning the pea and corn solids into flour and using them to make pasta dough. We’ll see how that turns out :-)

  4. 05/06/2011

    Awesome idea, thanks for sharing this with us.

  5. Joe
    11/12/2011

    I just got the same Beckman TJ-6 centrifuge off of craigslist (sans refrigeration unit unfortunately). What plastic containers are you using in this video? When you made the pea butter and corn water, did the containers deform under high g’s like they did in Jethro’s post? I want to buy some sturdy, reusable containers that fit these buckets and I was wondering if you had any recommendations.

  6. 12/12/2011

    @Joe I use these containers for my centrifuge: http://www.snapware.com/products/square-airtight-food-storage-container-1098418

    The did deform a little at the bottom during my first few centrifuge experiments, but they have not deformed beyond that since.

    If you use these containers in the TJ-6, make sure to tilt the buckets outward before you start spinning. The containers will bump against the rotor, but you can gently push them past that point and they’ll work just fine. You’ll see what I mean :-)

  7. Joe
    21/12/2011

    Thanks, those snapware containers worked.

    I don’t have a refrigeration unit attached to my centrifuge, so I experimented with using a Thermos food jar to passively keep the peas cool while spinning. The 16 oz Thermos Stainless King fits the bucket of the TJ-6 perfectly if you leave off the plastic cup.

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    Temperature definitely makes a difference. At the end of 3 hours in the centrifuge, the peas in the snapware container were 130F while those in the thermos were 100F. Both produced pea butter, but the butter in the thermos seemed smoother.

    Incidentally, the first time I tried making pea butter, I blended the peas in my blendtec so much that the pea puree reached 130F before it even made it into the centrifuge. It was my first time using a blendtec, so I didn’t realize how quickly blending on high heats up the food. With this “pre-cooked” puree I didn’t get any separation of the fat and solids, so it seems it’s important to keep the peas cool until after the layers have had a chance to separate. Also, your method of starting with thawed peas worked best, I couldn’t get any butter out of Jethro’s method of starting with frozen peas.

    I wonder if there are any foods that need to be centrifuged at *high* heat. Then the thermos can maintain a high temperature long enough for those layers to separate.

  8. 21/12/2011

    Wow, Joe, that’s great information! I didn’t know Thermos made jars that small, and would have never thought to use one in this capacity. Nice work!

  9. The Birch of the Shadow

    I think there may possibly become a several duplicates, but an exceedingly helpful listing! I have tweeted this. Quite a few thanks for sharing!

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